Images and video released by the US military directly link Iran to the attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman yesterday. Iran, of course, has rejected the allegations, yet the evidence obtained and released by the US is quite damning. The video, taken by a US Navy aircraft, clearly shows an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the MT Kokuka Courageous and crewmen removed an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the tanker before departing. Photos taken earlier, also released by the US military show the limpet mine attached to the ship’s hull.
The attacks on the oil tankers, one of which is owned by a Japanese company, came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran. This brings the timing of events into question, leading to the sneaking suspicion that Iran launched the tanker attacks during the meeting to create an alibi of sorts. After all, would Iran be foolish enough to attack a Japanese-owned oil tanker at the same time Japan’s leader is visiting the country for talks? Iran is hoping the world thinks the premise is absurd.
The big question for now is: what will the US response be? With the evidence in its possession, Washington can make a solid case to the UN, and the world and put Iran in a vulnerable position in the eyes of the world. Unfortunately, such action will likely do nothing to change the present formula in the Persian Gulf. Iran is lashing out in order to persuade the US to roll back the suffocating economic sanctions now in place. Tehran has taken a page from its old playbook and is using attacks on oil tankers to gain leverage over the US and demonstrate to the world the type of economic disruption Iran can bring to oil markets, and the global economy as a whole.
That is the theory at least.
In the next post we’ll discuss what form a possible US military response could take, and compare the similarities between events in the Persian Gulf area now and what took place there in 1987.