Trump points fin­ger at Iran in at­tacks on oil tankers in gulf

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION/WORLD - By Kath­leen Hunter and Mar­garet Talev

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Iran was re­spon­si­ble for at­tacks on oil tankers in the Per­sian Gulf this week and he vowed that the key ship­ping lane of the Strait of Hor­muz will not be closed.

“Iran did do it and you know they did it,” Trump said Fri­day dur­ing a phone in­ter­view with Fox News. “You saw the boat at night,” he said.

The pres­i­dent’s com­ments fol­low Amer­i­can of­fi­cials’ re­lease of im­ages they said show that Iran was in­volved in an at­tack on an oil tanker near the en­trance to the Per­sian Gulf on Thurs­day, one of two in­ci­dents that have raised ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and the Is­lamic Repub­lic. Ira­nian of­fi­cials have re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion.

The prospects of a con­flict have height­ened since the ad­min­is­tra­tion tight­ened its sanc­tions on Ira­nian oil ex­ports in early May, fol­low­ing Trump’s de­ci­sion a year ago to with­draw from the 2015 Iran nu­clear ac­cord.

Se­nior Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have said the U.S. is con­sid­er­ing a num­ber of re­sponses to the at­tacks, in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing naval es­corts to com­mer­cial ships trav­el­ing through the Strait of Hor­muz. An Amer­i­can mil­i­tary re­sponse hasn’t been ruled out, they said, and all op­tions are on the ta­ble.

U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand re­leased a time line of the in­ci­dent along with video and pho­to­graphs show­ing a boat along­side the hull of a larger ves­sel with a hole in its side. The mil­i­tary said the video showed Ira­nian forces re­mov­ing an un­ex­ploded limpet mine from from the ves­sel.

The video was the first ev­i­dence publicly put for­ward by the U.S. to sup­port its claim — an­nounced ear­lier on Thurs­day by Sec­re­tary of State Michael Pom­peo — that Iran was be­hind the at­tacks.

“The United States will de­fend its forces, in­ter­ests and stand with our part­ners and al­lies to safe­guard global com­merce and re­gional sta­bil­ity,” Pom­peo said, not­ing that Iran had pre­vi­ously threat­ened to cur­tail oil trans­port in the Strait of Hor­muz.

“They’re not go­ing to be clos­ing it,” Trump told Fox News on Fri­day.

Ira­nian of­fi­cials de­nied any in­volve­ment, with For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif sug­gest­ing that Iran’s en­e­mies may have been be­hind the at­tacks and re­it­er­at­ing calls for a re­gional di­a­logue.

The tanker at­tacks oc­curred as Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe was in Tehran meet­ing of­fi­cials in what was seen as an ef­fort to help ease ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and Iran. One of the ships is owned by a Ja­panese com­pany, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials. Pom­peo said the at­tack was tan­ta­mount to Iran in­sult­ing Ja­pan as Abe was try­ing to seek peace.

IRA­NIAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Fire and smoke bil­low from Nor­we­gian owned Front Al­tair tanker on Thurs­day af­ter it was al­legedly at­tacked in the Gulf of Oman.

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