Chris Pleasance – Daily Mail May 16, 2019
Fears that Iran was about to attack American targets in the Middle East were sparked by pictures of fully-assembled missiles loaded on to the back of boats in the Persian Gulf, it has been claimed.
Iranian paramilitary forces were seen loading the weapons on to small craft, amid concern that the Revolutionary Guards would fire them at US navy vessels.
Additional intelligence reported threats to commercial ships and potential attacks by Iranian-backed militias on American troops in Iraq, which, taken together, led the US to believe an attack was imminent.
The rockets were seen moving to locations that were within range of US bases, a source told the Washington Times.
American warnings of a ‘credible threat’ against its forces in the Middle East have sent tensions across the region soaring, as Arab nations including Saudi, UAE and Iran insisted they were ready for a war but didn’t want one.
Amid the mounting crisis in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia this morning directly blamed Iran for ordering drone attacks on its oil pipelines on Tuesday.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen had claimed responsibility for the attacks which saw explosive-laden drones hit two Aramco pumping stations.
Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister, Khalid bin Salman said Tuesday’s ‘proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran’s regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region,’ the prince said on Twitter.
‘The terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis, are tightening the noose around the ongoing political efforts.’
The remarks threaten to further escalate tinderbox relations in the region.
Attacks by Houthi drones inside Saudi Arabia’s territory also shows a level of sophistication not previously seen in attacks of this kind, Al-Jazeera reported.
While Houthis have been using weaponised drones in attacks since at least last year, their range has been relatively limited.
However, the two pipelines attacked on Tuesday were 800m inside Saudi territory, meaning the Houthis likely had to use satellite technology to guide the drones to their targets – technology they were not previously known to possess.
Today, three security sources told the New York Times pictures of missiles being loaded on to the back of boats in the Persian Gulf presented a new kind of threat to the one previously seen from Iran, prompting embassy evacuations on Wednesday.
President Trump’s security team, and in particular National Security Adviser John Bolton, took the threat seriously enough to order the withdrawal of non-essential embassy staff from Iraq, which has been completed.
Tensions between the US and Iran, which have been building for months, peaked in recent days following attacks on oil tankers and pumping stations that Washington has blamed on Tehran.
American security experts believe Iran gave its ‘blessing’ to tanker attacks, which hit two Saudi crude oil tankers, a UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge and a Norwegian-registered oil products tanker off Fujeirah near the Strait of Hormuz.
The source said the United States believes Iran’s role was one of actively encouraging militants but indicated the United States does not now have evidence that Iranian personnel played any direct operational role.
Houthi rebels, who are back by Iran, have already claimed responsibility for the attacks on two Saudi oil pumping stations earlier this week.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has called the tanker attacks ‘worrisome and dreadful’ and called for an investigation.
The precariousness of the situation was underlined Wednesday as multiple nations emphasised that they are ready for war, while insisting it is the last thing they want.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said it is ‘fully prepared for a confrontation with the enemy’ and was backed by defence minister Amir Hatami who insisted ‘we will defeat the United States’ in any military confrontation.