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Iran Crisis - June 2019

13 June 2019 - Two Tankers Attacked

On 13 June 2019 US Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous. Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack, and immediately began closing the distance.

Iran launched a surface-to-air missile at an American drone just hours before its attack on two oil tankers, US military sources revealed on 14 June 2019. Pentagon insiders said Tehran tried to shoot down the US MQ-9 Reaper drone as it monitored the region - but missed.

The Panama-registered Kokuka Courageous oil tanker, operated by Japan’s Kokuka Sangyo Co, and Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair, owned by Norway's Frontline, were hit by blasts in the Gulf of Oman. The Japanese Trade Ministry said in a statement that both ships were carrying “Japan-related cargo”. The attacks left one ship ablaze and both adrift, forcing scores of crew to abandon the ships.

At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair. At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water. At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.

At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion. While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The U.S. Navy released video that shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of one of two tankers carrying petroleum products that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman 13 June 2019. Photographs also released by the U.S. military showed the removed mine had been attached to the Japanese tanker, slightly forward of a mine that had exploded.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been visiting Iran in an attempt to ease tensions and was meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when the reported attacks occurred.

The head of the Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, which operates the tanker Kokuka Courageous, said the ship had been attacked twice, with one explosion near the engine room and another on the starboard, near the stern. Speaking to reporters, Yutaka Katada, said the crew of the vessel reported they saw a “flying object” just before the second blast on board, suggesting the tanker was not damaged by mines. Katada’s statement contradicts the US account of the incident.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks. “It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” Pompeo said. “Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran.”

Pompeo said the U.S. based its determination that Iran was behind the attacks on intelligence, the weapons used, and what he calls the “level of expertise” needed to carry out such an operation. The secretary noted that Iran was behind other recent similar attacks on shipping and that no proxy group in the region has the resources and ability to attack a tanker with such a “high degree of sophistication.”

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei declared on 13 June 2019 that Iran will not hold talks with the United States because President Donald Trump is not worth it. The Supreme Leader made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran. "I don't consider Trump worth sending a message to," Ayatollah Khamenei said during the meeting while reiterating that the US president does not deserve exchanging messages with. The Islamic Republic of Iran has no confidence in the US, said the Supreme Leader stressing that Iran will never repeat the unpleasant experience it had during the previous talks within the framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the US.

"We do not want a war in the region... But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests," Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , also known as MBS, told pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat 16 June 2019, in his first public comments since the attacks. "The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his (diplomatic) efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese."

Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on 17 June 2019 that the US would be sending an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East to counter alleged Iranian aggression. In a statement released at the time, Shanahan stated that the servicemembers would be used "for defensive purposes to address air, naval and ground-based threats" in the region.

The Pentagon revealed 19 June 2019 that the US' latest troop deployment to the Middle East will also include a Patriot Missile battalion, drones and manned surveillance aircraft. Additionally, the Pentagon has indicated that it doesn't want war with Iran, but that it is postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region.

On 19 June 2019 the US’ biggest oil company, Exxon, reportedly came under rocket attack in southern Iraq. That could be easily construed as a major threat to US interests. No group claimed responsibility for the latest rocket assault on Exxon’s facilities near the southern city of Basra.

Iran -  MQ-4C Triton  drone Iran -  MQ-4C Triton  drone USA -  MQ-4C Triton  drone

20 June 2019 - US MQ-4C Triton drone shootdown

On 20 June 2019 Iran shot down a US MQ-4C Triton drone, raising fears that a major military confrontation could erupt between Tehran and Washington in the Gulf. While Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said the unmanned aircraft was brought down by a surface-to-air missile after flying into Iranian airspace, US officials said the drone was in the international territory at the time. CENTCOM stated "Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. "This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace." The different accounts could not be reconciled immediately.

"The US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone was brought down" in the country's southern coastal province of Hormozgan, the IRGC's website said. "It was shot down when it entered Iran's airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south." Iranian state-run media says the US drone flew "with its identification transponders off in breach of all international aviation rules... from the Strait of Hormuz towards Iran's port city of Chabahar." As to its flight path: "While returning towards west of the Strait of Hormuz," Iran's PressTV said, "the drone violated Iran's territorial airspace and began gathering intelligence and spying." It was shot "near the Kouh-e Mobarak region" falling in the Ras al-Shir area "in Iran's territorial waters."

“Borders are our red line,” Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami told a crowd in the western city of Sanandaj, in a televised address. “`Any enemy that violates the borders will be annihilated.” He added: "Today, the nation of Iran is recognized in the world by the attributes of authority, honor, greatness, standing, dignity, progress, security and prosperity, and all these meanings and interpretations of the eternal heritage of hundreds of thousands of martyrs of this great land." He said: "At the dawn of the day, the Revolutionary Guards Corps courageously overthrouded one of the enemy's espionage aircraft that crossed our borders and violated our national security. This is the mode and method of Iran's nation in dealing with enemies.

Major General Salami emphasized that the overthrow of the US intelligence aircraft was a clear, clear, decisive, quick, precise and precise message that defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran's borders against the invasion of any alien to this land had resolute, And they will be definitive. The borders are our red line, and any enemy will invade it, will not return and will be destroyed. The only way enemies respect the territorial integrity and national interests of Iran.... We announce that we do not have a war with any country, but we are fully prepared for the war, and the incident is a clear indication of this message today".

The incident marked the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on US assets amid the escalating crisis after the United States imposed punishing sanctions on Tehran earlier this year and increased military forces in the Gulf. This "was a clear message to America,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander-in-chief, Hossein Salami, told local media. He added that any intrusion across the country's borders would be seen as a “red line” and would be met with strong resistance.

20 June 2019 - Trump Chokes

Trump said "Fortunately, that drone was unarmed. ... there was no man in it, it was in international waters but we didn't have a man or woman in the drone, we had nobody in the drone. Would have made a big, big difference.... I would imagine it was a general or somebody who made a mistake in shooting the drone down. .... "I have a feeling - and I may be wrong and I may be right but I'm right a lot - that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn't have been doing what they do - I think they made a mistake and I'm not just talking about the country made a mistake somebody under the command of the country made a mistake."

The US military nearly hit Iranian radar and missile batteries in strikes the evening of 20 June 2019, but Trump called it off at the last minute. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called U.S. officials in Washington to warn things could easily spiral out of control. Vladimir Putin warned President Trump not to use military force against Iran despite the Islamic Republic’s recent provocations. During a marathon four-hour call-in show, Putin warned the US that an attack on Iran would have enormous consequences, adding it would trigger an escalation of hostilities across the region. “It would be a catastrophe for the region as a minimum,” said the Russian strongman, an ally of the Iranian regime.

US President Donald Trump took advice from one of his favourite Fox News anchors, Tucker Carlson, before cancelling a strike on Iran earlier this week, The New York Times reported. According to the newspaper, while advisers to Trump were calling for a military strike against Iran in response to the downing of an American drone that Tehran claimed violated its airspace, Carlson told the POTUS that the use of force would be "crazy". The anchor of Trump's beloved TV channel reportedly convinced him that the “hawks” in the US administration did not have the president's best interests at heart, and that if Trump unleashed a war on Tehran, he could kiss his chances of 2020 re-election goodbye.

As the US president scrubbed the mission, he allegedly turned on his TV at the White House to watch the opening of Carlson's show, where the presenter stated that "foreign wars have ended in dismal failure for the United States". Even though the decision hadn't been made public yet, Carlson heaped praise on Trump for resisting military intervention in Iran. "The same people who lured us into the Iraq quagmire 16 years ago are demanding a new war, this one with Iran. The president, to his great credit, appears to be sceptical of this — very sceptical", Carlson said onscreen.

Trump on Twitter explained his decision: "On Monday [Iran] shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights [sic] when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!"

Subsequently leaked cables pertaining to the British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, published by the Mail on Sunday indicated that Trump’s entire strategy toward Iran was almost completely non-existent. Referring to Trump’s policy as “incoherent” and “chaotic” the ambassador stated that it was unlikely that Trump’s Iran strategy was “going to become more coherent any time soon.” According to Sir Kim, Trump’s grandiose claim that he had scaled back a strike plan against Iran following the downing of a US drone by Tehran due to its potential to cause widespread casualties “doesn’t stand up.” The diplomat said “It’s more likely that he was never fully on board and that he was worried about how this apparent reversal of his 2016 campaign promises would look come 2020”.

Iran's foreign minister has dismissed US President Donald Trump's claim that a war between their countries would be short-lived, as Washington sought NATO's help to build an anti-Tehran coalition. "'Short war' with Iran is an illusion," Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on 27 June 2019, a day after Trump said he did not want a war with Iran but warned that if fighting did break out, it "wouldn't last very long".

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Page last modified: 15-09-2019 14:41:04 ZULU