Responsibility ‘almost certainly’ lies with Tehran, says Jeremy Hunt

Britain’s prime ministerial candidate Jeremy Hunt appears on BBC TV’s The Andrew Marr Show in London on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Responsibility ‘almost certainly’ lies with Tehran, says Jeremy Hunt

  • “We have done our own intelligence assessment and the phrase we used is almost certain,” Hunt said
  • Blast-hit tankers to be assessed off UAE coast before their cargos are unloaded

LONDON/DUBAI: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned on Saturday there was a “great risk” of escalation in the Gulf, adding that Washington wanted the situation to end in negotiations.The two oil tankers crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran are being assessed off the coast off the UAE before their cargos are unloaded, the ships’ operators said on Sunday.
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman. Britain has concluded that responsibility “almost certainly” lies with Iran. Asked on BBC television about the possibility of escalation, he said: “This is the great risk of the situation that we are in. “Both sides in this dispute think that the other side wouldn’t want a war. We are urging all sides to de-escalate.
“Having spoken to President Trump, I am absolutely clear that for America they want this to end in negotiations. “Let’s see Iran stop its destabilizing activities in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Yemen where they are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf as we have seen. That is the long-term solution.”
The damaged Kokuka Courageous arrived on Sunday at a UAE anchorage site as Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind the attack. US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it” — rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial. Hunt defended his assertion that Iran was “almost certain” to blame for the attacks.
“We have done our own intelligence assessment. We have got videos of what happened. We have seen evidence. We don’t believe anyone else could have done this,” he said.
The owner of the Japanese vessel said Friday in Tokyo however that the crew saw a “flying object” prior to a second blast on board citing two apparent attacks.
He added he believed initial reports suggesting a torpedo was involved in the attack were incorrect as the damage was above the sea surface not below water, which would have suggested a torpedo.


Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

Updated 2 min 40 sec ago
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Iran's foreign minister walks back from remark on missile talks

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region"
  • A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday

TEHRAN: Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defense purposes — comments that reflect more backtracking after a remark by the top diplomat suggesting the missiles could be up for negotiations.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week that if the US wants to talk about Iran's missiles, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The foreign minister's remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington.
But the Iranian mission to the United Nations promptly called Zarif's suggestion purely "hypothetical" and said the Iranian missiles were "absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif's comments meant to challenge Washington and "threw the ball into the US court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
Zarif himself on Wednesday backpedaled on the missiles issue, saying Iran has no choice but to manufacture the missiles for its own defense.
He cited the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and tweeted that, "For 8 YEARS, Saddam (Hussein) showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West. Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain."
"Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations," Zarif also said.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have sharply escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally last year withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
America has also rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast amid unspecified threats from Iran.
Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military drone in the past months further raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing a region crucial to global energy supplies.

A compromise deal remains the best way to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the 2015 accord, and Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal.

In her last major speech before stepping down next week, May said the nuclear deal must be protected "whatever its challenges".

"Whether we like it or not a compromise deal remains the best way to get the outcome we all still ultimately seek – to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to preserve the stability of the region," May said.

Recently, British authorities intercepted the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and seized it with the help of British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar.
They believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the United States.
This is not the only issue between Iran and Britain.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran following her arrest in April 2016 on charges of plotting against the Iranian government, has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility, her husband said Wednesday.
Her family denies the allegations against her.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said in Britain that his wife has been moved to the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.
"Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on," he said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
British officials have urged Iranian officials to let her have contact with her family.