Two commercial shipping vessels were attacked yesterday in the Gulf of Oman. Both vessels and their cargoes will be salvaged, the crews were safely removed, and none of the potentially environmentally damaging cargo – one of the ships was carrying distillates of naptha, the other methanol – appears to have leaked out into the Gulf of Oman. Because of where these attacks occurred, everyone seems to have immediately decided it was Iran. Secretary of State Pompeo went so far as to state it was unequivocally Iran at his press conference yesterday.
Secretary Pompeo eventually changed his statement to US intelligence assesses, from US government. Regardless, it appears that he’s basing a lot of this on the US Navy surveillance footage that was released of an unexploded ordnance (UXO) tech on one of the Iranian rescue teams removing what could be a magnetically attached mine or magnetically attached shaped charge attached to the side of the Kokaku Courageous. The Navy identified the device as a magnetically attached limpet mine, but the video is too grainy to confirm it.
There are problems with the official US position as expressed by Secretary Pompeo.
Chief Wright has far more experience with this than I do, but I’d add that if we had conclusive proof, as Secretary Pompeo claimed yesterday, that Iran had placed these explosive devices, then he would have released that video instead of video of an Iranian UXO tech disarming and removing an unexploded device that is unidentifiable by video prior to the Iranian rescue team beginning rescue operations aboard the attacked ship. Chief Nance, who like Chief Wright, has far more experience with this than I do, has similar concerns.
James Fallow’s sums the problem up for all of us:
The owners of the Kokaku Courageous have now come out and stated that their ship was not attacked with a mine or a shaped charge, rather by an unidentified airborne device – and not by a torpedo.
One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship’s Japanese operator said on Friday, expressing doubt that a mine had been attached to its hull.
But Yutaka Katada, the company’s president, citing accounts from the ship’s crew, said Friday: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”
Please keep in mind that no evidence has actually been provided of who was responsible for last month’s attacks on shipping vessels in the area.
The bigger issue right now is how Secretary Pompeo and Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor Bolton try to spin this and leverage it to get the war they so clearly want. This includes trying to tie all of this back, in some way, shape, and/or form to Afghanistan and/or the Taliban so they can just take action under the existing 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was passed shortly after 9-11. Speaking of pieces of unexploded ordnance lying around waiting to go off…
Until or unless more and better evidence is actually released, all we can do is wait. The only good news in all of this, if there is any good news beyond that no one was seriously injured and no environmental damage appears to have occurred, is that because of the President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ well earned reputation for mendacity, no one, including our allies and partners, is simply accepting the official US position on yesterday’s attacks. The same people that asked all of us to believe that no one on the White House staff asked/ordered the Navy to remove the USS John McCain from the President’s sight while he was in Japan, which was a lie, are the same ones that now want us to accept without question that Iran’s famed and feared IRGC carried out a sloppy operation and did so in such an amateurish way that they got caught red handed. Either these guys are the greatest threat to everyone, everywhere or they’re the Keystone Cops. Pick one, they can’t be both. The President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ chronic inability to tell the truth may actually be the one thing that keeps things from escalating.