Attack on two tankers blamed on Iran after ‘US Government Assessment’

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The Trump Administration has officially concluded that Iran is responsible for Thursday’s attacks in the Strait of Hormuz against two tankers, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday during a press briefing. But his choice of words are quite telling.

Pompeo described the judgment of Iranian guilt in the Gulf of Oman attacks as “a US Government Assessment”. But US intelligence reports are released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and labelled an “Intelligence Assessment”.

In light of the chicanery involved in the “US Government Assessment” after the Ghouta “chemical attack” in 2013 in Syria, it appears that intelligence agencies in the US do not concur in the present judgment.

The Secretary of State and longtime Iran hawk, Pompeo, said Iran’s “unprovoked” attacks were part of a campaign to escalate tension in the region and disrupt the flow of the international oil trade.

He also said that Tehran rejected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s outreach for diplomacy.

The fake report of an alleged chemical attack in Ghouta was also described as a “Government Assessment” and the unclassified version was released by the White House Press Secretary.

In Ghouta, Syria and Russia’s defense ministries confirmed that that “the attack did not happen and video evidence for it was staged and directed by British intelligence”.

One former intelligence official told Inter Press Service that the description as a “Government” rather than an “Intelligence” assessment “means that this is not an intelligence community document”. Another pointed out that the White House had apparently “decided on a position and cherry-picked the intelligence to fit it”.

In an article from August 29, last year from the Associated Press, an unreleased report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was cited that outlined the evidence against Syria that included “a few key caveats — including acknowledging that the US intelligence community no longer has the certainty it did six months ago of where the regime’s chemical weapons are stored, nor does it have proof Assad ordered chemical weapons use”.

This admission by the intelligence community clearly shows the political bias of a so-called “Government Assessment”.

Bloomberg’s Javier Blas pointed out that Iran’s involvement would be all the more surprising since one of the ships, the Front Altair is owned by Norwegian John Frederiksen, the owner of the Frontline Tanker company, who moved oil for Iran during the “tanker war” with Iraq.

A Pentagon official told CBS News that “any retaliation” from the US would depend on whether it can recover hard evidence linking the attacks to Iran, something they might find after a search of the debris.

After this statement, a CENTCOM release showed footage which US officials say shows Iran caught in the act of “removing an unexploded mine” from one of the tankers attacked on Thursday.

Footage released by CENTCOM of Iranian vessel.

Notably, in tweets from Iran’s Supreme Leader issued after his meeting with Prime Minister Abe, he alluded to sanctions imposed on Iran’s petrochemical industry. The tankers hit today were loaded with naphta and methanol, both petrochemical products and not simply crude oil.

Last Friday, on June 7, the US sanctioned all trade with Iran’s biggest petrochemical producer, seriously hurting the Iranian concern. Iran meanwhile has “categorically” denied any involvement in the attacks. Foreign Minister Zarif noted: “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired.”

Iran’s permanent mission to the UN said on Thursday evening that it “categorically rejects the US unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” Bloomberg reported.

President Trump has been trying to force Iran’s hand in negotiations, and recently received the President of Switzerland at the White House. Switzerland is the “protecting power” that represent US diplomatic interests in Iran.

The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has also been sent to Iran to press for Iranian concessions, and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe’s visit to Tehran, may have been similar. Maas met Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei but had no success in moving Iran towards negotiations with the Trump administration.

US Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown concluded in the CENTCOM statement: “We have no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. We will defend our interests, but a war with Iran is not in our strategic interest, nor in the best interest of the international community.”

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