Iran’s parliament speaker hinted Sunday that Washington could be behind the “suspicious” tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman to pile pressure on Tehran, official news agency IRNA reported.
“The suspicious actions against the tankers… seem to complement the economic sanctions against Iran considering that (the US) has not achieved any results from them,” Ali Larijani told MPs.
He backed his claim by falsely stating there had been a precedent “during World War II, when Americans targeted their own ships near Japan to create an excuse for hostility.”
A non-belligerent state at the beginning of World War II, the US went to war after Japan’s surprise attack on the American Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941.
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman.
Washington accused Tehran of being behind the attacks, which took place as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran for talks aimed at defusing tensions between Iran and the United States.
Israeli intelligence has also concluded that Iran carried out Thursday’s attacks, Israeli television reported on Saturday night. Quoting a senior Israeli official involved in Iran-related issues, Channel 13 news reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps carried out the attacks. They used mines and a torpedo, the report said.
US President Donald Trump on Friday called Iran “a nation of terror,” saying the attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman had “Iran written all over it.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the US claim as “baseless” and said Washington had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran — (without) a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”
The US military on Friday released a video it said shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting the Islamic republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene.
While Iran has denied being involved in the attack, Tehran previously used mines against oil tankers in 1987 and 1988 in the “Tanker War,” when the US Navy escorted ships through the region.
The black-and-white footage, as well as still photographs released by the US military’s Central Command on Friday, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Kokuka Courageous.
A Revolutionary Guard patrol boat pulled alongside the ship and removed the mine, Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said.
“The US and the international community stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation,” Urban said. “The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.”
Iran earlier denied involvement via a statement from its mission to the United Nations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told journalists on Thursday that the US assessment of Iran’s involvement was based in part on intelligence, as well as the expertise needed for the operation. It was also based on recent incidents in the region, which the US also blamed on Iran, including the use of limpet mines in the Fujairah attack, he said. He also tied Iran to a drone attack by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on a crucial Saudi oil pipeline around the same time.
Tensions have escalated in the Mideast as Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that President Donald Trump repudiated last year. In the deal, Tehran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations don’t offer it new terms to the deal by July 7.
Already, Iran says it quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. Meanwhile, US sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water abroad, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.