Washington — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran Thursday for an attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as attacks a month earlier on pipelines in Saudi Arabia and on ships in nearby waters off Fujairah.
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"On April 22, Iran promised the world that it would interrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, it is now working to execute on that promise," Pompeo said.
Crude futures initially jumped on Pompeo's remarks, with the NYMEX July futures contract rallying 67 cents to $52.80/b. However, crude futures pulled back after Pompeo stressed the US would use economic and diplomatic tools against Iran, and did not mention a military escalation. NYMEX crude settled at $52.28/b, up $1.14 on the day.
On Thursday, the two tankers, the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous, were both damaged in an attack which Pompeo said was orchestrated by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. During a brief statement to the press, Pompeo said the US had concluded the IRGC was responsible for the attack due to intelligence, weapons used, the "level of expertise" needed to carry out of the attack and similar attacks on shipping by Iran's armed forces.
Pompeo said the attacks Thursday, along with attacks on oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia and four tankers in the Gulf of Oman on May 12, were in response to US sanctions on Iranian oil exports. The US, which re-imposed those sanctions in November, allowed waivers for some of Iran's largest crude and condensate buyers to expire in early May.
"Taken as a whole these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran," Pompeo said. "Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted. No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in international blackmail."
Pompeo said the US would raise the attack to the United Nations' Security Council later Thursday.
-- Brian Scheid, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Jeff Mower, email@example.com