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US Secretary Mike Pompeo briefs the media

On Thursday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “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.”

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Pompeo did not offer any evidence to support his claim, and Iran has denied any responsibility, while its news agency IRNA on Thursday reported that 44 sailors of the two oil tankers that had been hit by explosions in the Sea of Oman had been rescued by an Iranian vessel.

An Iranian spokesman warned that “all countries in the region should be careful not to fall in the trap of those who benefit from regional insecurity,” and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed the US and its regional allies, the emirates, without actually naming anyone, tweeting that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

Pressed by heavy US sanctions against its oil trade, Iran did benefit, directly and indirectly, from the fact that oil prices rose sharply Thursday (reaching more than 4% before adjusting), in anticipation of war in the Persian Gulf and the possible blocking of the Strait of Hormuz, where a third of the world’s oil supply moves.

One of the tankers sustained a hole at the water line from a torpedo or a similar projectile; the other, a Japanese tanker, was hit with projectiles in several assaults. Both tankers, which were carrying oil to Asia, caught fire, and both crews abandoned ship. Neither tanker is expected to sink, though. The attacks in the Gulf of Oman were 45 minutes apart, and the weapons used were reportedly sophisticated.

The administration has warned that it would retaliate against Iranian aggression in the region. On Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal, US officials suggested attaching military escorts to tankers headed for the Strait of Hormuz.

On Thursday, Pompeo recalled that, back in April, Iran had threatened to interrupt oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for US sanctions against its own oil exports. Pompeo then said Iran “is now working to execute on that promise.”

Fars News cited “a prominent Saudi expert” named Hezam al-Hezam, who said that UAE intelligence was behind the attacks on that oil tankers, “in a move to inflame war against Iran.”

“The UAE is playing with regional security after targeting the oil tankers in the Sea of Oman and therefore it had declared a state of emergency before the incident. The reason is to make the US agree with military attack against Iran and win Oman and Pakistan’s support,” al-Hezam tweeted Thursday.

Hey, at least they’re leaving Mossad out of the picture…

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