While the Trump administration accuses Iran without evidence of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Japanese, German, and EU officials are skeptical, saying there is no “definite proof.”
By Ben Norton
Even longtime US allies Japan and Germany, along with European Union diplomats, have expressed deep skepticism of the Donald Trump administration’s claim that Iran attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned diplomats to not jump to premature judgements, saying, “The maximum restraint and wisdom should be applied.”
Japanese government officials have stressed that there is no “definite proof that it’s Iran,” adding, “The US explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation.” A senior official close to Japan’s prime minister went so far as to insist, “Even if it’s the United States that makes the assertion, we cannot simply say we believe it.”
‘Maximum pressure’ campaign and US warmongering
The Trump administration is pursuing a “maximum pressure” campaign in an attempt to force regime change in Iran. The US is suffocating the country with crippling sanctions and a de facto economic blockade, and even threatening war.
To justify its aggressive war drive, Washington has tried to portray Tehran as a violent sponsor of terrorism.
On June 13, two oil tankers were allegedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman, near Iran. The Trump administration immediately claimed that Tehran was responsible, although it did not provide any evidence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later claimed that Tehran attacked the ships with mines, and the US military released grainy black-and-white video footage of what it claimed was an Iranian boat crew removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese tanker.
This narrative fell apart in hours, however, when the crew on one of the ships said they saw they were attacked with two “flying objects,” not mines.
Doubts from Germany
While former CIA director Pompeo claims there is “no doubt” and neoconservative national security adviser John Bolton insists that Iran is “almost certainly” behind the alleged attacks, the German government and European Union officials have publicly challenged the Trump administration’s accusations.
In response to the US government’s grainy footage, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me.”
Berlin has not formally accused any country of the attack. Maas lamented that the intelligence thus far “comes from one side in particular,” and added, “With a decision of this kind the utmost care is required and we’ll take our time for this.”
France has not taken a position on the incident.
The United Nations has not either. Immediately after the alleged attack, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified.”
Calls for ‘maximum restraint’ from EU
The EU has also pushed back.
“Before we blame someone, we need credible evidence,” Nathalie Tocci, a senior adviser to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, told The New York Times.
While calling for “maximum restraint,” Mogherini additionally emphasized that Iran has still remained “compliant with its nuclear commitments” under the international agreement the JCPOA, despite the fact that Washington illegally violated the deal in May 2018 and reimposed suffocating sanctions on Tehran in November.
"Our assessment on the implementation of the #IranDeal is based on the factual, technically sound evaluation that @iaeaorg makes in its reports. And so far Iran has been compliant with its nuclear commitments. Our focus is to keep the agreement in place" @FedericaMog pic.twitter.com/pQMMioSpIK
— European External Action Service – EEAS 🇪🇺 (@eu_eeas) June 17, 2019
Pompeo has taken the opportunity to also falsely blame Iran for attacks in Afghanistan, which the Taliban actually took credit for.
Strong skepticism from Japan
Even Japan’s right-wing government, a close Washington ally that has remained firmly in the American sphere of influence since the end of World War II, is suspicious of the Trump administration’s allegations.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been in Tehran when the alleged attacks took place. He was the first sitting Japanese leader to visit the country since Iran’s 1979 revolution, and was engaging in historic talks.
— MOFA of Japan (@MofaJapan_en) June 17, 2019
The newspaper Japan Today contacted Japanese government sources, who said they have asked the US government to provide evidence, but have not received anything substantive.
“The US explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation,” a senior Japanese government official told Japan Today.
The newspaper quoted a source close to Prime Minister Abe, who said, “These are not definite proof that it’s Iran,” adding, “Even if it’s the United States that makes the assertion, we cannot simply say we believe it.”
The Japanese Foreign Ministry even implied that the US or Israel could potentially be behind the incident.
Japan Today wrote, “If having expertise sophisticated enough to conduct the attack could be a reason to conclude that the attacker was Iran, ‘That would apply to the United States and Israel as well,’ said a source at the Foreign Ministry.”
Adam Schiff says there is "no question" Iran did it. But Japan certainly has questions:
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) June 16, 2019
The US government’s accusations have clearly angered Tokyo. The Trump administration has made it clear that it seeks to sabotage Iran’s attempts at diplomacy, even if that means disrupting diplomatic efforts by American allies.
The source close to Prime Minister Abe told Japan Today, “The attacks have severely affected the prime minister’s reputation as he was trying to be a mediator between the United States and Iran,” adding, “It is a serious concern, and making mistakes when determining facts is impermissible.”
Jeremy Corbyn warns of ‘threat of war’
In the United Kingdom, acceptance of the US government’s narrative has fallen on partisan lines.
Leaders of the British Conservative Party have sided with the Trump administration, blaming Iran for the alleged attack.
But prominent members of the Labour Party have raised concerns. Leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn maintained, “Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.”
“Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war,” Corbyn tweeted.
Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 14, 2019
Left-wing parliamentarian Chris Williamson added, “Whether it’s an attempt to remove Venezuela’s democratic govt, or regime change in Iran, the USA is causing global instability in furtherance of its imperial interests. We must reject the lies being used by the Trump admin to gain public support for their disastrous plans.”
Whether it's an attempt to remove Venezuela's democratic govt, or regime change in Iran, the USA is causing global instability in furtherance of its imperial interests. We must reject the lies being used by the Trump admin to gain public support for their disastrous plans.
— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) June 14, 2019