WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday blamed Iran for attacks this morning on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route through which much of the world’s oil passes.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and that the U.S. government would continue to assess the situation. Washington accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area, a vital shipping route through which much of the world’s oil passes.
No one has claimed Thursday’s attacks and no one has specifically blamed them on any party.
“U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12a.m. local time and a second one at 7:00 a.m. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command received the calls from the M/V Front Altair and M/V Kokuka Courageous, who were operating in international waters of the Gulf of Oman. USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) was operating in the vicinity and provided immediate assistance to the M/V Kokuka Courageous. Twenty-one mariners from the M/V Kokuka Courageous, who abandoned ship, are currently aboard USS Bainbridge. A Navy P-8 is also providing support.”
The attacks in the Gulf of Oman renewed geopolitical concerns that have largely abated in recent weeks.
The movement of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East is the Trump administration’s latest effort to pressure Tehran over its support for weapons proliferation and extremist groups in the Middle East.
Last month, Trump ordered new sanctions placed on Iranian metals, Tehran’s largest non-petroleum-related source of export revenue. The U.S. also took aim at Iranian oil by effectively ordering countries worldwide to stop buying Tehran’s oil or face sanctions of their own.
In a tweet Thursday, the president said that the U.S. is far from ready to make a deal with Iran.
Additionally, the U.S. designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Iran responded with threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, where about a third of the world’s oil export vessels pass. The U.S. then announced it was expediting the deployment of a carrier strike group equipped with bomber aircraft to the region.
Tehran announced it was relaxing some restrictions on its nuclear program but would not violate a 2015 accord with Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the United States. Iran had agreed to the 2015 limits on its disputed nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
A year ago Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling it a “horrible, one-sided” deal.