New images depicting the damage and aftermath of attacks by mines perpetrated on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week were released Monday by the US Central Command (CENTCOM). Some of the images seemed to show what appeared to be Iranian forces attempting the removal of one of the unexploded devices from the hull of one of the tankers involved.
Just hours after the release of the images Patrick Shanahan, Acting Defense Secretary stated that he had indeed approved a request by CENTCOM that would send approximately 1,000 additional US troops to the Middle East. The deployment of the forces, as stated by Shanahan, would be for the purpose of addressing any air, naval, or ground-based threats that may currently exist in the region.
Shanahan emphasized that the US does not seek to enter into a conflict with Iran. However, the recent attacks appear to validate reliable and credible intelligence that had already been obtained. In a statement by the military, the new images clearly show members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as they attempt to remove a limpet mind from the side of one of the Japanese oil tankers, owned by Kokuka Courageous.
Central Command made a statement reaffirming the previous claim by the Trump administration that Iran was indeed responsible for the attacks on both the oil tankers. The images themselves were released and made public just one day before the commanders of CENTCOM were scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo made the statement that in response to last week’s attack on the tankers, the option does exist for the new deployment of US troops to the Middle East. The attack, which occurred Thursday of last week, resulted in the evacuation of 44 sailors as well as severe damage to both of the vessels.
The attack took place along a key strategic water route, the Strait of Hormuz, which an estimated 20 percent of all the oil that is currently traded worldwide passes. With the relations between the US and Iran having significantly deteriorated over the recent months, the US has chosen to accelerate the USS Abraham Lincoln's aircraft carrier battle groups deployment to the region, as well as moving in more bombers and Patriot air defense systems. On Monday, Iran announced that it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles, as was in agreement with the US and five other world powers.
So, what’s the verdict—you decide.
With these bombings is Iran lighting the fuse on a possible conflict with the US?