The U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, saying the assaults were the latest in a series of hostile actions meant to disrupt the flow of oil. "Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, vowing the U.S. would defend itself and its partners.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's accusation on Thursday that Iran was behind an attack on two oil tankers forces President Trump to confront a choice he has avoided until now: whether to make good on his threat that Tehran would "suffer greatly" if American interests were imperiled. For weeks, Mr. Trump has weaved on the issue, by turns ordering a carrier group last month to head to the Persian Gulf and then distancing himself from the hawkish views of his national security adviser, John R. Bolton.
Attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman have sent tensions soaring between Iran and the United States, and reinforced fears that the two countries could be hurtling toward an unintended war. With no diplomatic relations between the two countries, no serious dialogue underway despite efforts by other countries to mediate, and no let-up in U.S. economic pressure on Iran, former U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and experts said there is a growing risk that a miscalculation, coupled with deep distrust, could trigger a conflict that neither side wants.
UANI IN THE NEWS
LIEBERMAN: I want to come back to the lead story of the day. In my opinion, with all the challenges against the U.S., instability, Russia, China, et cetera, the number one threat to our security is Iran, because they are a terrorist state now. And President Trump has acted with real strength to get them on the defensive. Let's keep them there.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
U.S. government-bond prices rose Thursday, as fears of a military standoff with Iran sent investors into assets perceived as safe. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury settled at 2.096%, compared with 2.129% Wednesday. Yields fall as bond prices rise. Yields extended early declines after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration has concluded that Iran is responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Over the past year, France has led a European push to keep trade with Iran alive after the United States tore up the nuclear deal with Tehran and re-imposed sanctions. But over the same period, data shows France has cut purchases of Iranian oil and sharply increased imports from Iran's arch-enemy Saudi Arabia. In recent weeks, France has used its energy needs to justify a surge in arms sales to the kingdom, even if there is no evidence the 50 percent increase in Saudi purchases of French arms last year was conditional on France buying Saudi oil.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The Houthis' targeting of Abha Airport with a missile, injuring 26 civilians, is clear and explicit evidence of the group's terrorism. This targeting of a civilian airport makes us re-evaluate the comprehensive Yemeni peace process at all levels. First is the mechanism for dealing with the Houthis - the rules of engagement should now be expanded, making the military option the only option.
The latest revelation that an Iranian-backed terror group has been stockpiling bomb-making materials in London has shed fresh light on Tehran's reach in Europe. For decades after the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran mainly confined its terrorist activities to the Middle East region, using the Revolutionary Guard Corps and proxies such as Hezbollah to target opponents and undermine moderate Arab regimes.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Amnesty International reports that more than one million people in 200 countries have signed a petition condemning the severe prison term handed out to Iranian rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh and demanding her release. Iran has jailed the defender of women who have protested against forced hijab and dissidents in Iran, on dubious charges and two trials without safeguards. As a result, Sotoudeh has received a 38-year prison terms and 148 lashes.
Workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane plant say the judicial authorities in Tehran are incessantly harassing their imprisoned co-workers and their relatives. Speaking to Radio Farda, a Haft Tappeh worker disclosed that following the referral of legal cases against his peers to the capital city, and placing detained workers behind bars in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, it has become increasingly difficult for family members to visit them from from the oil-rich Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that intelligence reviewed by American officials showed that Iran was responsible for attacks earlier in the day on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a critical waterway for the transit of much of the world's oil. Mr. Pompeo did not present any evidence to back up the assessment of Iran's involvement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday charged Iran with responsibility for the attack earlier in the day on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Mr. Pompeo cited intelligence reports and the nature of the weapons used, most likely torpedoes, as evidence. It is almost certainly true that Iran is behind the attacks, which makes it all the more important that the West unite in opposition to Iran's aggression.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a rough debut as Middle East peacemaker, ending the first trip by a Japanese leader to Iran in 41 years with the U.S.-Iran conflict even more volatile than before. Mr. Abe went to Tehran on Wednesday hoping to serve as a bridge between the U.S., Japan's closest ally, and Iran, with which Tokyo has maintained warm ties.
The U.S. military on Friday released a video it said shows Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene. Iran denies being involved, accusing the U.S. instead of waging an "Iranophobic campaign" against it. The U.S. Navy rushed to assist the stricken vessels in the Gulf of Oman, off the coast of Iran, including one that was set ablaze Thursday by an explosion.
The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that drove up oil prices and raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation, but Tehran bluntly denied the allegation. It was not immediately clear what befell the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which both experienced explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave the vessels adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.
Iran's foreign minister said on Friday that the U.S. allegations against Iran over the Gulf of Oman tanker attacks were part of "sabotage diplomacy" adopted by a so-called B Team, which he has said includes U.S. national security adviser John Bolton. "That the US immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran-w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence-only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy-including by @AbeShinzo-and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran," Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
U.S. actions pose a serious threat to stability in the Middle East, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the leaders of a China-led security bloc including Russia and India on Friday. The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that drove up oil prices and raised concern about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation. Iran denied any connection with the attacks. Rouhani did not mention the attacks but focussed his criticism on U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal last year from world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was no reason not to believe the United States' assessment that Iran was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. "We are going to make our own independent assessment, we have our processes to do that, (but) we have no reason not to believe the American assessment and our instinct is to believe it because they are our closest ally," Hunt told BBC radio on Friday, echoing comments he made late on Thursday.
Iran categorically rejects the "unfounded" U.S. claim over Thursday's attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Iran's mission to the United Nations said after Washington blamed Tehran for the attacks. "Iran categorically rejects the U.S. unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms," the Iranian mission said in a statement.
Amid renewed high tensions in the Persian Gulf, Iran's Supreme Leader says he has rejected an offer from President Donald Trump to talk, blasting the U.S. as insincere in its offer and untrustworthy. "I do not consider Trump as a person worth exchanging any message with," Ayatollah Khamenei reportedly said. Hours later, Trump tweeted that he wasn't "ready" to talk either and it was "too soon to even think about making a deal."
The US doesn't believe the threat from Iran is over after two oil tankers came under suspected attack on Thursday, officials said. Senior officials said the US has photographed an unexploded mine on the side of one of the tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and believes Iran is responsible. The photograph is expected to be made public later Thursday.
The U.S. Navy has released video it says shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of one of two tankers carrying petroleum products that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman Thursday. One of the tankers is Norwegian-owned, and the other is owned by Japanese Kokuka Sangyo shipping company. Photographs also released by the U.S. military show the removed mine had been attached to the Japanese tanker, slightly forward of a mine that had exploded.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says he is not going to respond to U.S. President Donal Trump's message which was conveyed to him by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a meeting in Tehran on Thursday June 16. Voicing his defiance and distrust at the same time, Khamenei said "I have no response and I will not have a response to Trump's message," adding that he does not believe in Americans' "honesty." Khamenei further added that Trump "did not deserve a reply."
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has told a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek that U.S. actions pose a serious threat to stability in the Middle East. Rohani made the remarks on June 14, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for attacks on a Japanese and a Norwegian commercial oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman that were being escorted by the U.S. Navy.
Tensions between the United States and Iran have soared in recent weeks, with Washington dispatching warships and bombers around the Persian Gulf, and Tehran threatening to resume higher uranium enrichment. The tensions come a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and restored crippling sanctions.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reports that the collapse of an underground coal mine in the central province of Semnan killed two miners and injured a third. The report quotes the governor of Damghan County, Aliasghar Majd, as saying collapse occurred at the Alborz-e Sharghi coal mine shortly before noon on June 13. Majd confirmed that two miners were killed. He said the injured miner was in "good" condition. Majd did not comment on the suspected cause of the collapse. mention the reason for the collapse.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russia on Thursday warned against rushing to attribute blame for a suspected attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and said the incident should not be used to stoke tensions with Tehran, Russia's RIA news agency reported. Two oil tankers were attacked, leaving one ablaze and both adrift, shipping firms said, driving oil prices as much as 4% higher over worries about Middle East supplies. The attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies.
Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi has met with a delegation from Palestinian factions at the Iranian embassy in Damascus. A statement issued by the factions said that discussions focused on the latest developments in the region, the Palestinian cause and mainly US President Donald Trump's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan dubbed the "deal of the century." The statement stressed that the Palestinian factions remain united against the plan.
The May 14 visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Russia was, without exaggeration, expected in the Kremlin. After the report of Special Counsel Robert Muller released in March seemingly exonerated President Donald Trump of "collusion" accusations, a window of opportunity opened up to re-establish direct communication channels.
CHINA & IRAN
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Iran's president on Friday that China will promote steady development of ties with Iran no matter how the situation changes, Chinese state media said. The official Xinhua news agency said Xi made the comment in a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia says its air defence forces intercepted five drones launched by Yemen's Houthis at Abha airport and the city of Khamis Mushait in the latest escalation of conflict in the region. The air traffic and airspace at Abha airport were operating normally, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman said in a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency said early on Friday.
Explosions crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday in what the United States called "unprovoked attacks" by Iran, raising alarms about immediate security and potential military conflict in a vital passageway for a third of the world's petroleum. Iran called the accusations part of a campaign of American disinformation and "warmongering."
Security in the Gulf is of high importance to Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, hours after two tankers in the Gulf of Oman were evacuated following suspected attacks. "Security is of high importance to Iran in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East, in Asia and in the whole world. We have always tried to secure peace and stability in the region," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
Iran said on Friday it was responsible for maintaining the security of the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, state radio reported, adding that blaming Tehran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman was alarming. "We are responsible for ensuring the security of the Strait and we have rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time," Radio quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.
Attacks on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran did not use torpedoes, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday. The two ships were attacked and left adrift earlier on Thursday, raising fears of a possible confrontation between Iran and the United States, which has called the attacks unacceptable.
Saudi Arabia agrees with the United States that Iran was behind the suspected attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Thursday. "We have no reason to disagree with the secretary of state. We agree with him," Jubeir told CNN. "Iran has a history of doing this."
Twitter Inc on Thursday said it removed thousands of accounts linked to coordinated, state-backed activities it believes were from the Iranian government and archived them to its public database launched last year. In the latest purge of information, the company said it believes 4,779 accounts were associated or backed by Iran. The micro-blogging site also said it had removed and archived four accounts affiliated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll farm" ...
Twitter on Thursday released an archive of tweets and media associated with Iran- and Russia-linked misinformation campaigns that have since been removed from the site, giving researchers a chance to look into the contours of state-backed information operations on one of the top social media platforms in the world. The company said it is adding datasets from 4,779 Iran-linked accounts that were engaged in misinformation campaigns, four accounts associated with a prominent Russian troll farm...