Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for an attack against two oil tankers, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Singapore-owned ship Kokuka Courageous, in the Sea of Oman as part of their plan to cut off the vital oil shipping route through the Straits of Hormuz. No casualties were reported.
It is the assessment of the U.S. government that Iran is responsible for today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman. These attacks are a threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran. pic.twitter.com/cbLrWNU5S0
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 13, 2019
The Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond, has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades.
“This is only the latest in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests,” Pompeo told reporters on Thursday. “On April 22, Iran promised the world it would interrupt the flow of the oil through the Strait of Hormuz. It is now working to execute on that promise.”
The Strait of Hormuz is a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, and North America. It has been the focus of regional tensions for decades. 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, the shipping lane is just two miles wide in either direction and is highly susceptible to attack. About one-fifth of the entire global consumption of oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. It is also the route used for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced by the world’s biggest LNG exporter, Qatar. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting the commercial ships in the area.
#BREAKING: @US5thFleet official statement regarding shipping vessels in #GulfOfOman. #USNavy‘s #USSBainbridge rendering assistance – https://t.co/2bhOXQxO5z pic.twitter.com/V74UV2awBP
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) June 13, 2019
Iran claimed that it rescued the crews of the tankers after the attack but that claim has been debunked. A spokesman for the US Central Command said the 21 crew members from the Singapore oil tanker Kokuka Courageous, which was en route from Saudi Arabia to Singapore with a shipment of methanol when it was attacked, were on board the US Navy ship USS Bainbridge.
Another statement this evening from CENTCOM, this time w/ a timeline attached+pics of the Kokuka Courageous:
One key line: “Today’s attacks are a clear threat to int’l freedom of navigation & freedom of commerce.”@CENTCOM also sent a video, but my computer can’t/won’t load it pic.twitter.com/EbyxFuhE0e
— Ben Watson (@natsecwatson) June 14, 2019
A U.S. defense official told CNN that sailors aboard a US naval destroyer spotted an unexploded mine on one of two tankers. A limpet mine is a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets. The Pentagon released photos and a video taken from the USS Bainbridge that they claim shows Iranian forces removing the unexploded mine from the Kokuka Courageous.
Iran has been known to use Limpet mines against tankers in the past most notably during the “Tanker Wars” in the late 1980s.
On May 12, four oil tankers — two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati — were damaged in still unexplained attacks in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates (UAE). U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iranian naval mines were almost certainly behind those attacks but declined to provide specific evidence that Tehran was involved. A UAE investigation into the incident concluded that the explosions were mostly caused by Limpet mines attached by highly-trained divers deployed by small, fast boats.