The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation. Tehran, however has bluntly denied the allegation.
It was not immediately clear what befell the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which both experienced explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave the vessels adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.
The United States, which has accused Iran or its proxies of carrying out a May 12 attack on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates’ coast as well as May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations, squarely blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks.
On Thursday night, U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the U.S. military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous “and was observed and recorded removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.”
Tensions between Iran and the United States have risen since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot sell its oil because of U.S. sanctions.
Tensions have increased further since Trump acted at the beginning of May to force Iran’s oil customers to slash their imports to zero or face draconian U.S. financial sanctions. Iran’s oil exports have dropped to around 400,000 barrels per day in May from 2.5 million bpd in April last year.
Also in May, the Trump administration said it would send more troops to the Middle East, citing what it saw as a threat of potential attack by Iran.
Both Iran and US however say they want to avoid a war and would rather resolve issues with dialogue.