US claims Iran gave ‘blessing’ for attacks on Saudi oil tankers as Washington bristles for war
BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Helicopters ferried U.S. staff from the American embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday out of apparent concern about perceived threats from Iran, which U.S. sources believe encouraged Sunday’s attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf.
The sabotage of the tankers, for which no one has claimed responsibility, and Saudi Arabia’s announcement on Tuesday that armed drones hit two of its oil pumping stations have raised concerns Washington and Tehran may be inching toward conflict.
A U.S. government source said American security experts believe Iran gave its “blessing” to tanker attacks, which hit two Saudi crude oil tankers, a UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge and a Norwegian-registered oil products tanker off Fujeirah near the Strait of Hormuz.
The source said the United States believes Iran’s role was one of actively encouraging militants but indicated the United States does not now have evidence that Iranian personnel played any direct operational role.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has called the tanker attacks “worrisome and dreadful” and called for an investigation.
There has been a marked increase in U.S.-Iranian tensions since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to try to cut off all of Iran’s oil exports and to designate its Revolutionary Guards as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Trump, who last year abandoned the 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran, believes the economic pressure will force Tehran to accept more stringent limitations on its nuclear and missile programs as well as on its support for proxies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the increasing U.S. sanctions “unacceptable” but said Tehran remained committed to its obligations under the nuclear accord.
“We exercise maximum restraint in spite of the fact the United States withdrew,” Zarif said as he met his Japanese …read more
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