Introduction – June 15, 2019
The U.S. is trying to do what it once did with Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s trying establish a consensus to blame Iran, as a pretext for military action against it.
However, not everyone is buying into the U.S. version of events. Especially as the Japanese ship’s operators have flatly contradicted US claims about mines.
Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, told reporters on Friday that sailors on board the oil tanker saw “flying objects” just before the ship caught fire.
As a result the U.S. is having problems convincing others of its version of events. So far only Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom have voiced their support. With the UK announcing that it will deploy 100 Royal Marines to protect British ships in the gulf.
That’s probably far short of the sort of military commitment Washington wants and the longer this drags on the harder it will be for the U.S. to drum up support for military action. Make no mistake, the hawks in the Trump administration are working toward war with Iran but whether they’ll achieve their goal is another matter. Ed.
US seeks to build ‘international consensus’ blaming Iran for tanker attacks
Jessica Glenza – The Guardian June 15, 2019
The US is hoping to “build international consensus” around what officials claim is Iran’s responsibility for damaging two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as UK officials joined the US in formally accusing Iran of carrying out the attacks.
The efforts come after the US released grainy surveillance footage of an alleged Iran Revolutionary Guard patrol boat, with men who appear to remove a magnetic limpet mine on the hull of one of the ships.
The acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said the US was looking to “build international consensus to this international problem” on Friday.
The attack was not only a “US situation”, Shanahan said. He listed several other countries that operated vessels in the waters. “When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, Japanese ship, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE,” Shanahan said, referring to attacks a few weeks prior.
Oil prices have risen 3.4% following the attack, which came in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping channel for international oil supplies. Insurance for ship operators in the area jumped 10%.
Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, also uses the Strait. On Saturday, the Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said “there must be a rapid and decisive response to the threat” to secure Gulf energy supplies and consumer confidence, according to a tweet from the ministry.
The message was echoed by the Japanese industry minister, Hiroshige Seko, who said ministers agreed on the need to “work together to deal with the recent incidents from [an] energy security point of view”.
The U.S. military released a video on Thursday, saying it showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the explosions that damaged the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous.
The UK officially joined the US in accusing Iran of perpetrating the attack on Friday night, in a statement from the Foreign Office saying: “It is almost certain that a branch of the Iranian military – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – attacked the two tankers on 13 June. No other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible.”
The statement continued: “There is recent precedent for attacks by Iran against oil tankers. The Emirati-led investigation of the 12 May attack on four oil tankers near the port of Fujairah [in the UAE] concluded that it was conducted by a sophisticated state actor. We are confident that Iran bears responsibility for that attack.”
Although Donald Trump claimed the attacks had “Iran written all over” them, other heads of state have been more cautious in assigning blame.
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, called for an independent investigation.
“It’s very important to know the truth and it’s very important that responsibilities are clarified. Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts,” Guterres told reporters on Friday.
The German foreign minister was also cautious, saying the video released by US Central Command was “not enough” to make an assessment, according to ABC News.
Several world powers have meanwhile called for diplomatic efforts to lower tensions, including China and Russia, which have closer ties to Iran. The European Union called for “maximum restraint”.
Iran, meanwhile, has denied responsibility for the attack. Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, said the claims were like “false fabrications during world war I, the Vietnam war and Iraq war that were designed to instigate military interventions and armed conflicts in different parts of world.”
The attack came as the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, visited Iran in an attempt to mediate new talks on a nuclear agreement. One of the ships attacked was a Japanese vessel called the Kokuka Courageous. Iran is holding the mostly Russian crew of one of the ships, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair.
The Associated Press contributed to this report