Addressing a press conference in Dubai on Wednesday US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iranian underwater mines were "likely" used in an attack on four international oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz a week-and-a-half ago, including two Saudi vessels, but still didn't present evidence nor show the precise nature of the damage.
"Iran probably used Iranian naval mines for the UAE oil tankers attacks," he said while in Abu Dhabi set to attend an emergency summit of gulf leaders to consider the implications of both the May 12 tanker "sabotage" incident near Fujairah emirate and the drone strikes two days following on a Saudi Aramco pipeline and oil pumping station.
Bolton further said there was "no doubt" that Iran ordered the series of aggressive acts, also echoing prior Pentagon statements. “I think it is clear these (tanker attacks) were naval mines almost certainly from Iran,” Bolton said. “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know.”
The assessment is consistent with what a Norwegian insurance investigators' preliminary findings into the incident alleged based on analyzing shrapnel from the attacks which was reportedly "similar" to shrapnel recovered from surface drones used off Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi militia. That preliminary report, released within the week after the incident, said it was was "highly likely" the work of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) deploying underwater attack drones.
Not only does the US now have a carrier strike group and B-52 bombers on high alert in the Persian Gulf region, but the White House last week signed off on deployment of 1,500 additional troops in response to the heightened Iran threat.
The national security advisor further described the additional military build-up this month the “prudent and responsible” approach which signaled Iran that Washington was ready to give a “very strong” response to any continued action.
Bolton said the taken by the United States, which has beefed up its military presence in the region, had made it clear to Iran and its proxies that such actions risked a U.S. response. However, the UAE itself has yet to formally lay blame on Iran or the IRGC for the tanker sabotage incident.
Iran, for its part, has continued to deny any involvement in either the tanker sabotage or drone attack on the oil facility — the latter which is understood to have been immediately carried out by Shia Houthis in Yemen, but which the US has laid blame on Iran for ultimately planning and orchestrating.
Interestingly, even Reuters had to bluntly admit of Bolton's Wednesday statements: "There was no immediate response from Iran to the comments by Bolton, who did not provide evidence to support his statement."