Japanese-owned oil tanker struck in Gulf as Abe delivered U.S. message in Iran

by WorldTribune Staff, June 13, 2019

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated after reports today of more suspected attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Iran has denied being behind previous similar attacks.

One of the two tankers was owned by a Japanese company. The attacks occurred during a visit to Teheran by Japan’s prime minister.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Teheran on June 13. / Iranian supreme leader’s office

Speaking in Washington on June 13, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the gulf of Oman today. This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

Pompeo said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen would raise the issue at a hastily called meeting of the Security Council on June 13.

Meanwhile, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Iran did not believe U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer of negotiations was “worthy” of a response.

Abe, in a June 13 meeting with Khamenei in Teheran, carried a message to the Iranian leadership from Trump, who warned about the possibility of unintended clashes in the Middle East. Abe had met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on June 12.

Related: Japan’s Abe consulted with Trump on upcoming visit to Iran, June 11, 2019

Iranian state media quoted Khamenei as saying he did not see Trump “as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him now nor in the future.”

Khamenei said Trump’s promise not to seek regime change in Iran was “a lie.”

The supreme leader also said Iran would not repeat what he called a “bitter experience” of negotiating with the United States amid rising tensions between Teheran and Washington.

The United States has sent additional forces to the region in recent weeks after accusing Iran of threatening ships there.

The June 13 attack near the vital shipping channel of the Strait of Hormuz was “only the latest in a series of attacks started by Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests” aimed at “escalating tension, Pompeo said. “On April 22, Iran promised the world it would interrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. It is now working to execute on that promise.”

Iran’s claim that it had rescued the crews of both vessels which came under attack in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 was “patently false,” a U.S. defense official said. Iran claimed it dispatched search teams that rescued 44 sailors from the two vessels.

The U.S. official said the USS Bainbridge picked up 21 crew members from the vessels.

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