- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday afternoon that attacks earlier in the day on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were carried out by Iranian forces.

“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,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

As the secretary of state was speaking, President Trump said Iran and the U.S. “are not ready” for any kind of cooperation.

Mr. Trump noted that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a close ally of the U.S., had been visiting Tehran as a possible mediator on Thursday.

“While I very much appreciate P.M. Abe going to Iran to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter, in reference to the Japanese prime minister’s meeting with Iran’s supreme leader.



“They are not ready, and neither are we!” Mr. Trump said in the tweet.

The comments from Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo came after early morning attacks Thursday on the two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf left dozens of sailors stranded off the coast of Iran and ratcheted up already heightened tensions in the region.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet responded to the incident, which saw two vessels — the MT Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous, flagged from the Marshall Islands and Panama, respectively — stranded at sea after reports of explosions aboard and a suspected “torpedo attack.”

The Front Altair was traveling to Taiwan and the Kokuka was on its way to Singapore, according to reports.

“We are aware of the reported attack on shipping vessels in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local (Bahrain) time and a second one at 7:00 a.m. U.S. Navy ships are in the area and are rendering assistance,” the Navy said in a statement.

The reported attacks come just weeks after another incident in the region in which four oil tankers were struck by mines — an attack the U.S. and its regional allies blamed on Iran. It took place shortly after the Trump administration announced a major new embargo on Iranian oil exports.

After Thursday’s attack, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said Iran was helping to evacuate the stranded sailors.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to deny the attacks and described them as “suspicious.”

• Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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