US blames Iran for tanker attacks, Iran denies involvement

World Today

U.S. President Donald Trump is blaming Iran for attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. He even phoned into a national news program to call Iran “a nation of terror”, an accusation that echoes the sentiment of others in his administration. Iran denies involvement. CGTN’S Jim Spellman reports.

The U.S. blames Iran for the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. To back up those claims, the U.S. released a still photo of the Japanese-operated tanker taken Thursday from a U.S. Navy destroyer. It seems to show damage to the ship in one section and an unexploded mine attached to another section of the hull.

The U.S. military also released video, taken later from aircraft, that the Pentagon says shows Iranian sailors removing the mine, implying an attempt to hide evidence.

U.S. President Donald Trump says this proves Iran was behind the attacks.

“Iran did do it and you know they did do it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it,” Trump told Fox News.

But there are doubts that a mine was used in this attack. The Japanese tanker company that operates one of the two ships says a mine or torpedo was likely not used because the damage is above the waterline. Mines of this type are generally attached magnetically from the water below. The company says the crew saw objects in the air before the attack.

Iran denies involvement. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said U.S. sanctions against Tehran have failed to force Iran to negotiate a new nuclear deal, so Washington has moved on to “Plan B”, tweeting:

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has called for closer cooperation with Russia as tensions in the region escalate and Iran faces more economic pressure from U.S. sanctions. China says it is willing to work with countries in the Gulf region to maintain peace and stability.

“We hope that all parties concerned will maintain calm and restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions. We hope all parties will maintain navigation safety in the relevant waters, along with regional peace and stability,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

President Trump spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the phone Friday to discuss the attacks. Japan says it does not intend to deploy its self-defense forces to the Gulf region and Trump has not said how the U.S. may respond to the tanker attacks.

Lester Munson on tensions between the US and Iran

Former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Lester Munson talked to CGTN’s Mike Walter about the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. He is also a Principal in the International at BGR Group, a leading government relations firm in Washington, D.C.