Published: Fri, June 14, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

At Trump's request, Abe asked Iran to release American captives, source says

At Trump's request, Abe asked Iran to release American captives, source says

On Thursday night, United States Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the U.S. military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat, approaching the Kokuka Courageous, which showed "removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous". Tehran denied involvement, accusing the U.S. of waging an "Iranophobic campaign".

Former USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold says the USA needs to provide irrefutable proof to the United Nations that Iran is responsible for the attack on two oil tankers in the Middle East.

Still image taken from a USA military handout video purports to show Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous Tanker on Thursday.

Reuters came out with the story quoting the United States military that doesn't prefer opening up new conflict in the Middle East but might not refrain from securing the national interest.

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

Tensions between the United States and Iran are high after the USA pulled out from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions preventing Iran from accessing the U.S. financial system and trading in the dollar.

The start of the video shows a small ship, putatively an Iranian patrol boat, floating alongside the tanker, the Kokuka Courageous.

The two vessels were struck by explosions in the early daylight hours Thursday after leaving the Strait of Hormuz and traveling around 25 nautical miles off Iran's southern coast headed toward Asia.

A US Navy boat USS Bainbridge entered the area after the explosion but one of the sources has reported Iranian boats also entered afterward. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman. The impact happened above the water line so there was no damage to goods and fuel, and it is unlikely that the ship would sink, Katada said.

Thursday's attack resembled that of an attack in May targeting four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. USA officials similarly accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to the hulls of a ship.

The fact that both vessels remained afloat suggested mines may have damaged them, Larsen said.

He did not immediately offer concrete evidence but said it was based on United States intelligence of the type of weapons used and the expertise needed to execute the strikes.

It was also based on recent incidents in the region that the USA also blames on Iran, including a similar attack on tankers in May and the bombing of an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia by Iranian-backed fighters, he said.

In Yemen, this conflict has had devastating consequences for more than four years as Saudi and Emirati - backed with U.S. bombs - forces try to take back control of the nation from Houthi rebels aligned with Iran.

"Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to global peace and security", Pompeo said. He provided no evidence, gave no specifics about any plans and took no questions.

Iran denied being involved then and its foreign minister called the timing of Thursday's incidents suspicious, given that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. As the day progressed, he hit back at the United States accusations, saying Washington is trying to set up a false-flag attack in order to "sabotage diplomacy" and cover up their own "economic terrorism" against Tehran. Washington quickly blamed Iran for Thursday's attacks, but Tehran denied the allegation.

The UAE last week said initial findings of its investigation pointed to the likelihood that a "state actor" was behind the bombings, but did not specifically blame Iran.

Tensions have escalated in the Mideast as Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that the Trump administration repudiated a year ago.

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