Pompeo to meet with military commanders in wake of oil tanker attacks

Washington/Luxembourg (dpa) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to Florida on Tuesday for talks with US military leaders in the wake of attacks on the two ships last week in the Gulf of Oman.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus announced Pompeo's travel plans shortly before the Pentagon released more photos that it said backed its claim that Iran was behind the attacks.

Ortagus said Pompeo will meet at a US Air Force base with the commanders of US Central Command and US Southern Command, who oversee US forces in the Middle East, "to discuss regional security concerns and ongoing operations."
The United States accused Iran of carrying out the attacks shortly after they took place on Thursday. Saudi Arabia and Britain also believe Iran to be responsible.
Pompeo said Sunday the US is considering a "full range of options" in response, including military action.
Earlier Monday EU ministers warned against jumping to premature conclusions about the recent attacks on the tankers.
The two vessels, from Norway and Japan, were damaged in the incidents. The Norwegian tanker caught fire after an explosion. The alleged attacks, at a time of heightened tensions in the region, have prompted concerns about the outbreak of a new Gulf war.
The new photos released by the Pentagon show more clearly the damage sustained by Kokuka Courageous from an alleged limpet mine, a device that is attached using magnets and detonated by a timer, the Pentagon said.
One photo, which the Pentagon said was taken from a US Navy helicopter, showed a hole in the hull of the Kokuka Courageous. Following the attack, sailors on the ship discovered a second limpet mine that didn't explode and abandoned ship, the Pentagon said.
Another photo taken by the helicopter showed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sailors removing an unexploded limpet mine from the ship, according to the information.
"Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine," the Pentagon said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged caution, noting that Berlin has not yet come to a final conclusion on who is to blame.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn recalled the 2003 Iraq war, which was based on erroneously interpreted Western intelligence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
The foreign ministers' main task is to "avoid war," Asselborn said, joining Guterres' call for an independent investigation.
"I think it's always useful to establish the facts, so that we can draw policy conclusions based on facts," added Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.
Meanwhile, several ministers said the issue should be kept separate from efforts to uphold the Iran nuclear deal, after Washington withdrew from the 2015 accord aimed at preventing Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.
"If we tried to put all the problems into one package then it becomes a big mess," Lajcak noted, while his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok said: "The nuclear deal should be judged on the countenance of the deal itself."
But Maas noted that "of course" the latest incidents made efforts to uphold the nuclear deal "more difficult."


Tuesday, June 18th 2019

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