US intelligence proves ‘without question’ Iran behind tanker attacks

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The US Navy says the Kokuka Courageous was damaged by a limpet mine that was similar to devices previously displayed by Tehran. (AP)
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Brian Hook, pictured, said that Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and 13 approached tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous before they suffered explosions. (Screenshot/Congress)
Updated 20 June 2019

US intelligence proves ‘without question’ Iran behind tanker attacks

  • Hook: Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and 13 approached tankers
  • Pentagon says new troops will include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and 'other deterrence capabilities.'

WASHINGTON: The US envoy to Iran Brian Hook said Wednesday US intelligence proves “without question” Iran was behind the attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Hook said that Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and 13 approached tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous before each ship suffered explosions on June 13. 

“Those who have seen the intelligence all come away without any question Iran is behind these attacks,” Hook told a conressional hearing on the Trump adminstration's Iran policy.

Hook added that the intelligence showed a senior Islamic Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) official confirmed that its personnel had “completed two actions.”

Earlier the US Navy displayed mine fragments and a magnet it said it had removed from one of two oil tankers, saying the mines bore a striking resemblance to Iranian ones.

Addressing Iran’s involvement in Yemen, committee member Joe Wilson referred to the Houthi attack on Abha airport last week, which injured 26 people. He asked Hook how the US planned to hold Iran accountable for such actions, given Tehran’s support for the Houthis.

Hook said the US supported the right of countries like Saudi Arabia “who are on the front lines of Iranian agression” in their right to defend themselves when attacked, especially by the Houthi rebels.

“Iran has spent hundreds of millions of dollars organizing, training and equipping the Houthis to fight at a level beyond which makes any normal sense and it has prolonged and intensified the conflict,” Hook said.

“Iran is playing a very long game in Yemen They would very much like to do in Yemen what they have been able to do in Lebanon and to use the Houthis in the same model that they have used Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Hook said there had been half a dozen attacks in the last six weeks and that this was why the US had beefed up its military presence in the region “to establish deterrents.”

The US on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the region because of the threat from Iran. The deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month. The US has also sent an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers.

The Pentagon Wednesday said the additional 1,000 troops would include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and "other deterrence capabilities".
"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region," a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

Also during the hearing, Hook said Iran was trying to “sow military roots in Syria,” and is attempting to destabilize Lebanon through its support for Hezbollah.

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.