WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Monday released new photos and a time-line that it said bolstered U.S. accusations that Iran was behind a pair of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.
The report provides more details about the attacks that have heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which has denied involvement in the incidents. President Donald Trump said last week “Iran did it,” and U.K. officials said it is “almost certain” that Tehran was behind the attacks.
A Navy explosives expert who briefed reporters at the Pentagon said a mine placed above the waterline on the Kokuka Courageous was an indication that the attackers intended to damage the ship but not sink it.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” according to a statement accompanying the photos.
Nevertheless, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation because “it is very important to know the truth,” a statement that has won support from other nations.
According to the Pentagon time-line and photos, here is how the June 13 attacks played out, with the time listed in Greenwich Mean Time (four hours ahead of New York):
At 3:12 a.m. the destroyer USS Mason received a call from the M/T Front Altair reporting that it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman. A large fire was observed a few minutes later and the destroyer USS Bainbridge, 40 nautical miles away, moved to render aid.
At 4:00 a.m., the M/T Kokuka Courageous reports being hit by an external projectile, taking on water and confronting a fire in its engine room.
At 5:09 a.m. Iran’s Hendijan PGG and “multiple fast inshore attack craft observed within the area.”
At 5:15 a.m. the Front Altair confirms major fire amidships.
At 6:26 a.m. an unidentified Iranian patrol boat requests the M/V Hyundai Dubai hand over crew rescued from the Front Altair, a request the ship complies with.
At 8:05 a.m. The Bainbridge approaches a Dutch tug, the Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of the Kokuka Courageous. The Iranian ship Hendijan PGG tried to get to the tug first, according to the Pentagon.
At 8:32 a.m. The sailors rescued by the Coastal Ace are transferred to the Bainbridge.
The Pentagon took the unusual step of identifying the source of the imagery — in this case a Navy MH-60R surveillance helicopter that can fly and hover as they gather delayed imagery at lower altitudes than drones or P-8 maritime patrol craft.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has suggested that Iran’s enemies may have been behind the attacks, essentially framing his country, and renewed calls for a regional dialogue. In a tweet on Friday he said, “Unilateral US actions —incl. its #EconomicTerrorism on Iran — are solely responsible for insecurity & renewed tension in our region.”