Iran pushes back on tanker attack blame, says it controls Hormuz Strait security

Iran pushes back on tanker attack blame, says it controls Hormuz Strait security
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Iran on Friday pushed back on claims from the United States that it was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Reuters reported.

“These accusations are alarming,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Friday, adding that blaming Iran for Thursday’s attacks was “the simplest and the most convenient way for Pompeo and other U.S. officials.”

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“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,” he reportedly added.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDiplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes MORE on Thursday blamed Iran for the attacks on the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous.

“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks the occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” Pompeo said in a roughly five-minute statement, citing intelligence, the weapons used, expertise required and similar recent attacks.

He did not go into further detail on what evidence the United States has against Iran and did not take questions after the statement.

The U.S. military released a video later Thursday that it says shows Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing a mine from a targeted oil tanker. 

The attack comes weeks after alleged sabotage attacks against four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The United States similarly blamed those attacks on Iran, pointing to limpet mines that officials said were Iranian.

Iran also denied involvement in those attacks.

The accusations come amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Last month, the Trump administration warned of unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” coming from Iran and deployed a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in response.

The president's critics have accused the administration of itself escalating tension with Iran. In addition to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the administration has ramped up sanctions and designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.