On Thursday, two tankers erupted in fireballs after explosions rocked the vessels. The MT Front Altair is believed to be the victim of a torpedo attack that led to three explosions, causing the crew to have to abandon ship. The Kokuka Courageous was hit by explosions and sailors on the vessel also had to flee.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the United States believes Iran is behind the attacks that seriously damaged the two oil tankers, which were located near the Persian Gulf.
“It is 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,” said Pompeo, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
“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.”
Both of the vessels – one Norwegian and one Japanese – were using the same strategic shipping lane in the Strait of Hormuz when they were struck. Four other oil vessels were sabotaged while traveling through the lane last month.
After examining one of the vessels that was attacked today, crew members from the USS Bainbridge, which was offering assistance, discovered an unexploded limpet mine.
Increasing tensions in the region have led British authorities to urge “extreme caution” for anyone operating in the area.
These incidents came just weeks after Saudi tankers were the victims of a seeming act of sabotage – which the US believes was also the work of Iran – while off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
While noting that the Gulf region is “becoming unsafe,” Paolo d’Amico, a tanker industry chief, stated that “the oil supply to the entire Western world could be at risk,” as 30 percent of the crude oil supply passes through the area.
Pompeo said that the two attacks were part of a “campaign” of “escalating tension” as well as a threat to international security and peace.
While Pompeo did state that the US will defend its vessels, along with its interests in the region, he did not specify whether there was a plan in place and he declined to answer questions from reporters.