The Japanese owner of an oil tanker attacked this week in the Gulf of Oman has contradicted US claims that the vessel was damaged by Iranian limpet mines.
A pair of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman was rocked by explosions on Thursday, further raising the already high tensions in the region. The Japanese-owned Kokura Courageous, along with Norwegian tanker Front Altair, was the target of what United States officials asserted Thursday evening to be attacks by Iran.
As evidence, the US released two photographs of the hull of the Japanese ship and military footage that spokesman Capt. Bill Urban says shows an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the ship.
Pointing to “the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attacks constituted another aggressive step by Iran in response to the Trump administration’s “maximum-pressure campaign” of heavy sanctions following US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.
On Friday morning, however, Yutaka Katada, president of Kokaku Sangyo Co., stated at a press conference that his tanker was struck by airborne projectiles rather than underwater mines.
“We received reports that something flew towards the ship. The place where the projectile landed was significantly higher than the water level, so we are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo. I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”
The attacks came amid Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s diplomatic visit to Iran to cool tensions in the region, the first time a Japanese prime minister has done so since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
The visit was not met with much success, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declaring, “I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” according to the ayatollah’s website.
After the attacks, United States President Donald Trump commented on Twitter that neither the US or Iran is “ready” to make a “deal” resolving sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has denied responsibility for the attack, instead accusing the US of making baseless assumptions:
In an earlier tweet, Zarif had suggested the Japanese involvement in the attack was conspiratorial in nature:
On Friday morning’s “Fox & Friends,” President Trump brushed off Iran’s denials, insisting that
Well, Iran did do it, and you know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode, and it’s probably essentially got Iran written all over it. And you saw the boat at night trying to take the mine off and successfully took the mine off the boat, and that was exposed, and that was their boat, that was them, and they didn’t want the evidence left behind. I guess they don’t know that we have things that we could detect in the dark that work very well. So we have that and then, or you put it on, so no it was them that did it.President Trump, Fox & Friends Phone Interview, June 14, 2019
The full video can be viewed below. It is cued to begin with President Trump’s comments regarding Iran.
Spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry Abbas Mousavi called the latest US accusations “ridiculous, but also very worrying and dangerous,” according to the IRNA state news agency.
Tensions have risen sharply in the area over the past several weeks. The US sent an aircraft carrier and bombers to the region in May, after which four Saudi and UAE oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz were attacked. US National Security Adviser John Bolton said it was “clear” that Iran was behind the May 12 incident.
Also, according to Reuters, Yemeni Houthi forces backed by Iran fired a cruise missile at a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, wounding 26 people. Saudi Arabia downed five drones in another Houthi-based airport attack on Friday.
As TheNewsBlender reported on May 23, a measure requiring explicit Congressional approval for a military strike on Iran was defeated 13-9 in a panel vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.