Two tankers were recently attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, marking the latest in a series of incidents that have occurred as the tension between Iran and the United States continues to rise. After President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and reimposed sanctions on the rogue regime, the rhetoric between the two countries has grown increasingly contentious.
While the attacker in this incident is still unknown, Iran’s recent behavior has suspicions aroused in both the western world and the Middle East.
Naval Attack Near Oman
The two tankers were attacked on Thursday, June 13, near Oman. One of the vessels were set ablaze, and sailors managed to evacuate from both ships. This marks the second such incident within a month. According to CBS News, U.S. officials are placing the blame on Tehran, whose ships have recently behaved more aggressively against U.S. and Saudi naval vessels.
An official working with the Department of Defense told CBS News that it was “highly likely Iran caused these attacks.” He also dismissed Tehran’s claim that they rescued sailors from the tankers as “patently false.” He indicated that the crew members in the boats were not given a choice as to whether they would board the Iranian ships or remain in place; it appears to have been a detainment rather than a rescue. U.S. naval forces picked up 21 crew members.
The official explained that some of the sailors believed they were hit by a mine or torpedo. One of the ships was owned by the Japanese and was carrying methanol. The second belongs to Frontline, a Norwegian company. It is expected that the U.S. will be able to recover enough evidence from the debris to trace the attacks to the offender.
The identity of the attacker is still not known, but if evidence links the offensive to Iran, it could put the Middle Eastern country in a precarious situation. Tehran has already been flexing its muscles, launching strikes against at least four other vessels within the past month. Up until now, there has been no sign of retaliation, but it seems that could change in an instant.
Last month, Trump responded to the attacks on Saudi oil tankers with a stern warning to Tehran. “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “They’re not going to be happy.”
The president did not give further details as to any punitive measures he would impose if they failed to cease their aggression, but judging by his previous actions, it’s clear that he means business. But most would likely be concerned about how retaliation could potentially escalate hostilities between the two nations.
Indeed, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Tehran just before the attack and called on both nations to work towards a solution. “Tensions have risen since President Donald Trump, who has demanded Tehran curb its military programs and influence in the Middle East, pulled the United States out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions,” Reuters reported.
If Iran carried out these latest attacks, it could suggest their willingness to also pull out of the nuclear deal. Indeed, Tehran threatened to remove themselves from the agreement unless the European Union worked to persuade the U.S. to ease up on its sanctions. However, the E.U. refused to give in to their demands, which could be Iran’s motivation behind their recent antagonism.
But the real challenge for the Trump administration will be resolving this conflict without going to war or using military force, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. The president has been famously averse to sending troops into unnecessary wars. But Iran’s previous actions cannot go unanswered, so it seems reasonable that he could ratchet up additional financial pressure on the Iranian government. What remains to be seen is whether or not this strategy can work.
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