President Trump will this week hold talks with his trusted security aides in the wake of last week’s attack on two oil tankers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, two US officials with direct knowledge of the discussions told CNN. The officials did not make it clear how the President would be briefed or when a decision would be made. Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan hinted at the discussions on Friday.
He said: “When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, Japanese ship, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, 15 percent of the world’s oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, so we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate but we also need to broaden our support for this international situation.”
News of the discussions comes after US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned he was considering military intervention in the beleaguered region.
The Secretary of State’s chilling warning fuels speculation of an escalation in regional tensions which could result in conflict.
Mr Pompeo said on Sunday the US is “considering a full range of options” regarding rising tensions with Iran, including military options.
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But the leading official underscored President Trump said he does not want to go to war.
Mr Pompeo said in an interview on CBS Face the Nation: “The United States is considering a full range of options.
“We have briefed the President a couple of times.
“We’ll continue to keep him updated.
“We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set.”
When asked if a military response was included in that set of actions, Mr Pompeo responded: “Of course.”
He added: “The President will consider everything we need to do to make sure, right?
“But what’s the President said? We don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
“President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war.”
Mr Pompeo’s words come amid rising tensions after an attack was launched on two oil tankers last week.
The vessels, one of which was carrying oil and the other transporting chemicals, were struck in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The narrow stretch of water, through which roughly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes, is one of the most vital shipping routes in the world.
The waterway has therefore been a flashpoint for regional tensions over decades, with Tehran frequently threatening to close down the thoroughfare in response to fiery US rhetoric.
The US has blamed Iran for last week’s attack on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, releasing video footage it claims shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels’ hulls.
Tehran however emphatically denies the attacks with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani suggesting on Sunday the United States may have carried out “acts of sabotage” against two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman to blame them on Iran and pressure Tehran.
British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said on Sunday “tensions” in Iran “are a concern for us all,” in an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
Mr Ellwood said while he understood Iran’s frustrations over the nuclear deal, “that does not give license to start attacking ships”.
And in a statement Friday, the UK’s Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the attacks.
Despite their insistence Jeremy Corbyn has refused to back the US claim.
The Labour leader said the UK should “ease tensions” in the region rather than “fuel a military escalation”.
But Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt lashed out, branding Mr Corbyn “pathetic” after he questioned whether the UK had “credible evidence” Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.