Pompeo Pledges Action Against Iran

U.S. Navy sailors provide aid to the crew of Kokuka Courageous onboard USS Bainbridge
U.S. Navy sailors provide aid to the crew of Kokuka Courageous onboard USS Bainbridge

Published Jun 16, 2019 6:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said of course a military response will be considered after two oil tankers were crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week. 

In a first show of strength, the Royal Saudi Air Force reportedly flew in joint formation with U.S. F-15 fighter jets over the Gulf Arab region on Sunday.

Speaking with Margaret Brennan of CBS Face the Nation on Sunday, Pompeo said: “The United States is considering a full range of options.” Asked if that included a military response, he said: “Of course, of course....I made a bunch of phone calls yesterday. I’ll make a whole bunch more calls today. The world needs to unite against this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Elaborating, he said: “China gets over 80 percent of its crude oil transiting through the Strait of Hormuz. South Korea, Japan – these nations are incredibly dependent on these resources. We’re prepared to do our part. We always defend freedom of navigation. We are going to work to build out a set of countries that have deep, vested interest in keeping that strait open to help us do that.”

Brennan then asked: “So when you talk about a military response, you’re talking about that, keeping the waterways open? You’re not, at this point, talking about a strike on Iran.” Pompeo responded: “Oh goodness, President Trump has said very clearly he doesn’t want to go to war.”

Asked if he could take action without having to ask Congress for permission, Pompeo said: “I don’t want to get into hypotheticals, but the American people should be very confident the actions that the United States takes under President Trump will always be lawful, always consistent with our Constitution, and we will always do the hard tasks it takes to protect American interests wherever they are.”

In an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday, Pompeo addressed the option that the Pentagon is reportedly considering sending as many as 6,000 more troops to the area along with warships, war planes, submarines. There’s also been talk about an international coalition to escort commercial ships through the Strait of Hormuz.  

“President Trump has been unambiguous,” said Pompeo. “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. That’s the goal. That’s the objective of our entire campaign with respect to Iran, and to create stability throughout the Middle East as part of that effort. I don’t want to talk about options that are out there, options that are not there. The President has made it very clear we’re going to achieve this objective. We continuously update options. That’s for the President. We’ve taken a handful of those actions to increase the opportunity to convince Iran that these actions aren’t in their best interest, and it appears to be Iran that wants to continue to escalate this conflict.”

Yet, Trump has focused his weekend tweets on home topics such as calls for his impeachment, and not mentioning Iran.

Thursday's Attacks

At about 0600-0700 hours Thursday, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous both suffered hull damage from explosions while in transit in the Gulf of Oman. Both vessels' crews abandoned ship and were rescued by good Samaritan vessels. They were later transferred to naval vessels from the United States (for the crew of the Kokuka Courageous) and Iran (for the crew of the Front Altair). 

Vessel tracking data indicates that the Front Altair is currently sitting off the coast of the UAE’s Khorfakkan port while the Kokuka Courageous is anchored closer to shore off the UAE's Kalba port, reports Reuters. The tankers are being assessed off the coast off the United Arab Emirates before their cargoes are unloaded. It is not clear who is conducting the assessment.