The Wall Street Journal’s Summer Said, along with Nancy A. Youssef and Benoit Faucon, report that an official from the United States has said that an initial assessment points to Iran as the culprit in the recent sabotage attacks on vessels in the Persian Gulf. They write:
An initial U.S. assessment indicated Iran likely was behind the attack on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels damaged over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official said, a finding that, if confirmed, would further inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf.
The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack and comes after a series of U.S. warnings against aggression by Iran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region.
The U.S. official, who declined to be identified, didn’t offer details about what led to the assessment or its implications for a possible U.S. response. The U.S. has said in the past week that it was sending an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, a bomber task force and an antimissile system to the region after it alleged intelligence showed Iran posed a threat to its troops.
These latest incidents contribute to a broad risk of escalation in the region. And they come as the Trump administration takes a new hard-line approach against Iran, dispatching new U.S. military assets to the region to counter what it considers a new threat from Tehran against American forces and their allies.
Iranian state media said Tuesday the pipeline attack in Saudi Arabia was carried out by “seven drones of Yemen’s armed forces,” citing an unnamed Yemeni source who said the operation was “retaliation for Saudi Arabia’s aggression and siege of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.”
The heavy-handedness of Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen has indeed wrought international condemnation. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called the conflict and subsequent humanitarian crisis on the precipice of “imminent catastrophe.” The U.S., which had originally been providing intelligence, logistics and aerial refueling support since the conflict began in 2015, has since withdrawn some of its support to Riyadh based in part on human rights concerns.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday warned against so-called “false flag operations” that the U.S. and its Gulf allies wish to attribute to Iran, including the recent tanker attack.