Gulf tensions: Mike Pompeo rallies leaders over tanker attacks
The US is reaching out to allies and other countries to lobby its case that Iran was behind the recent ‘sabotage attacks’ on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a claim that Tehran has rejected.
The US had released a video of some operatives who it said belonged to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), removing mines from the side of a Japanese oil tanker, one of the two ships hit last week. The crew had said their vessel was hit by flying objects. There are suspicions about the footage released by the US, seen as being pushed by members of the Trump administration eager to go into a war, which the US president has insisted he doesn’t want.
In a series of TV interviews, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo defended the veracity of the footage, which has also been provided to allies and others. “This was taken from an American camera, and this is the real data,” Pompeo told CBS New’s Face the Nation programme. “Yes, we’ve shared it with allies already. You’ve had the chance to see it. I made a bunch of phone calls yesterday. I’ll make a whole bunch more calls today. The world needs to unite against this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“We are going to work to build out a set of countries that have deep vested interest in keeping that strait open to help us do that,” Pompeo said.
Pressed on whether new US military deployment to the region was possible, Pompeo said that “of course” remained among the options that President Donald Trump may consider to keep oil tankers moving through the narrow strait, a strategic choke point for oil shipments from West Asia.
He cited China, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia that draw the majority of their crude oil supplies form the region and thus are deeply invested in keeping the shipping lanes open.
“We’re prepared to do our part. We always defend freedom of navigation. We are going to work to build out a set of countries that have deep, vested interest in keeping that strait open to help us do that,” he said. It could not be immediately ascertained if he had called India or intended to. India has been one of the biggest buyers of Iranian crude and has had to drastically reduce its supplies and switch to other sources under threat of US sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration, which has withdrawn the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.The US has accused Iranians not only of the bomb explosions on Japanese and a Norwegian tankers last week, but of trying to shoot down a Reaper drone with a missile just hours before the ships were attacked. The missile missed.
The US has deployed an aircraft carrier group, missile defence systems and an amphibious ship to West Asia in recent weeks citing intelligence that Iranians were planning to carry out strikes against US facilities and those of allies.