Iran ‘highly likely’ to be behind Gulf tanker attacks, according to US officials

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Iran was “highly likely” behind the attacks on the four tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, according to the official assessment by the US.

The US has evidence - photos of the damage and forensics - linking Iran or its proxies to the attacks, reported NBC News.

Explosive charges were used to damage the four ships, two from Saudi Arabia and one each from the UAE and Norway, off the coast of Fujairah emirate in the UAE on Sunday.

The incident came at a time when the Trump Administration had withdrawn all sanction waivers to countries importing oil from Iran. The US, responding to the heightened rhetoric and threatening postures by Tehran and its proxies, had also announced that it was sending a carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the region.

NBC report, based on information from three US officials familiar with the findings about the attacks on the four ships, also said that the beefing up of the American military assets in the region was “having an effect on Iranian posture and behavior.”

The officials also reported easing of tensions in the waterway during the past 24 hours, with the US tracking Iranian dhow movements.

On Thursday, two Navy guided-missile destroyers, the USS Gonzalez and USS McFaul, had transited smoothly through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf.

The official also cautioned that Tehran may be “adjusting its posture in order to regain the element of surprise,” knowing that the US was tracking its boats.

As a possible sign of the de-escalation, two Navy guided-missile destroyers, the USS Gonzalez and USS McFaul, transited through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf on Thursday without major incident.

However, the NBC report pointed to continuing “threat from Shia militias and proxies in Iraq” which according to the official remained high and “unchanged” over the past few days.

A security incident on Thursday at the US Embassy in Baghdad pointed to the kind of tension in the region. An unidentified drone near the embassy led to an hour-long lockdown of the embassy before it was determined that it “posed no danger to facilities or staff.”

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