The U.S. military has released video it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard taking an unexploded mine from the hull of one of two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran hit back, accusing the U.S. of waging an “Iranophobic campaign.”
The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair were attacked early Thursday morning. Both vessels suffered explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave them adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the United States has assessed that Iran is responsible for the attacks and U.S. Central Command confirmed the details.
.@SecPompeo: The United States will defend its forces and interests, and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability. We call upon all nations threatened by #Iran’s provocative acts to join us in that endeavor. pic.twitter.com/snjIVxtl2t
— Department of State (@StateDept) June 13, 2019
Centcom spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said the U.S. Navy had responded immediately to the initial threat in the Gulf of Oman:
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.
Iran has rejected the U.S. accusation against it as “baseless”. In a tweet posted early Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the U.S. of “immediately” jumping to make allegations against Tehran without “a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence”.
The attack made it “abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy — including by @AbeShinzo — and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran”.
That the US immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran—w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence—only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy—including by @AbeShinzo—and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 14 June 2019
Zarif regularly uses the term “B Team” to refer to U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton as well as Israel’s prime minister, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Thursday’s attack occured while Japanse Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Iran seeking to defuse tensions between Washington and the Islamic Republic.
Thursday’s attack resembled a similar operation in May targeting four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. U.S. officials similarly accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to the hulls of a ship. The mines disable, but don’t sink, a vessel.
The U.N. Security Council held closed consultations on the tanker incidents late Thursday at the request of the United States but took no action.
AFP contributed to this report