US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran only hours after the attacks but offered no proof. Japan has requested concrete evidence to back Pompeo’s assertion of Iran’s involvement.
A video released by the Department of Defense allegedly shows an Iranian patrol boat “removing an unexploded mine” from the side of the Japanese-operated tanker, the Kokuka Courageous.
Japanese government officials however remain unconvinced. “The US explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation,” said one senior government official. According to Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Japan has been seeking more concrete evidence through various channels.
A source close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “These are not definite proof that it’s Iran.” He added: “Even if it’s the United States that makes the assertion, we cannot simply say we believe it.” There is little reason to conclude that the attacker was Iran, since the criteria could “apply to the United States and Israel as well,” said a source at the Foreign Ministry.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has been claiming that “a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a US MQ-9, at 6:45am local time, June 13, over the Gulf of Oman, to disrupt surveillance of the (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous…”
CENTCOM has also claimed that the tankers were damaged by limpet mines, which happens to be a totally ineffective application above the waterline of a ship.
During a press conference just hours after the US released video footage that purported to show an Iranian boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of an oil tanker, the Japanese owner of that vessel said on Friday that the ship was likely damaged by a “flying object”.
The MQ9 Reaper drone is a surveillance platform but it is also capable of firing missiles.
Yutaka Katada said claims of a mine attack were “false.” Katada told reporters in Tokyo: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.” Katada’s account directly contradicted the Trump administration’s claims.
As Common Dreams reported on Friday, mainstream media outlets uncritically repeated American claims. A former UK top official Craig Murry noted: “I really cannot begin to fathom how stupid you would have to be to believe that Iran would attack a Japanese oil tanker at the very moment that the Japanese Prime Minister was sitting down to friendly, US-disapproved talks in Tehran on economic cooperation that can help Iran survive the effects of US economic sanctions.
“The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was holed above the water line. That rules out a torpedo attack, which is the explanation being touted by the neo-cons.
“The second vessel, the Front Altair, is Norwegian owned and 50 percent Russian crewed (the others being Filipinos). It is owned by Frontline, a massive tanker leasing company that also has a specific record of being helpful to Iran in continuing to ship oil despite sanctions.
“It was Iran that rescued the crews and helped bring the damaged vessels under control.”
According to Murray, Iran would neither target a Japanese ship nor a friendly Russian crewed ship. He called it “a ludicrous allegation”.
Instead, Murray suggested that “USA allies in the region – the Saudis, their Gulf Cooperation Council colleagues, and Israel” would target vessels for a false flag. “It is worth noting that John Bolton was meeting with United Arab Emirates ministers two weeks ago – both ships had just left the UAE.”