With the words "Gulf of Tonkin" trending on Twitter this morning at a moment that a senior American defense official told CBS News that "it's highly likely Iran caused these attacks," it appears the general public is not even close to buying the claim that Iran attacked two tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz this morning.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif pointed out a crucial obvious factor not likely to make it across the US mainstream airwaves or headlines:
"Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning," he said.
This especially crucial — according to his comments — given that one of the vessels is a Japanese tanker supposedly "attacked" by Iran in the middle of a visit to Tehran by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan's Trade Ministry later confirmed that one of the ships hit Thursday morning was carrying "Japan-related cargo."
The details of the Japanese tanker are described by the AP as follows:
The Japanese operator of a tanker that was damaged in a suspected attack in the Strait of Hormuz says all of its crewmembers are now safe onboard a U.S. Navy warship.
The chemical tanker Kokuka Courageous, operated by Kokuka Sangyo Co., was apparently attacked as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz toward Singapore and Thailand destinations to deliver methanol.
Currently Iran is desperately attempting to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with other world powers at a time its economy is being crushed under US sanctions, and Wednesday's visit by the Japanese PM appears an attempt to mediate. The tanker incident and emergency nature of what transpired "eclipsed the Abe visit, an unexpected bit of outreach to Iran by someone Trump calls a friend," as CNN noted.
The Panama-flagged and Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was one of the two vessels reportedly attacked, possibly by torpedo fire, mine, or underwater drone, in the Gulf of Oman.
UPDATE : 2 Oil Tankers Attacked in Gulf— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) June 13, 2019
• Kokuka Courageous & Front Altair
• Headed to Singapore & Taiwan
• Explosion caused fire on Altair
• Kokuka came under fire
• US 5th fleet helped rescue,NO casualties
• Iran Agency wrongly claimed ship sank https://t.co/wv7LD2UUro
Speaking of CNN, we've really entered new territory when even it's pundits are quickly raising the question of a 'false flag' in our midst:
Iran doesn't appear to have a lot to gain. Say what you like about Tehran's malicious intent, these incidents heighten the global drumbeat for greater isolation and boosts those who seek to apply military pressure on Iran. Its economy is in a bad condition. Before President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA (colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal), Tehran was at its peak of regional influence. With diminished economic resources, its potency is likely to wane.
The incidents also came in the middle of a visit to Tehran by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, apparently trying to mediate over the nuclear deal (although Tokyo says he's not an envoy for Washington). The apparent attacks eclipsed the Abe visit, an unexpected bit of outreach to Iran by someone Trump calls a friend.
And quite surprisingly, more from CNN:
Iran's chief moderate, Foreign Minister Javid Zarif, was right to point out that "suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning." When one party is so easily blamed, it is likely blameless, or unfathomably stupid.
Meanwhile anonymous US officials are blaming a "state actor" in what is very likely just the beginning of a hail of evidence-free accusations and threats to follow.
And separately, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen's government in the country's civil war has come out and blamed Iran for Thursday's attack, saying they believe they can connect it to a similar tanker bombing last year in the Red Sea committed by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The spokesman called the attack a "major escalation", and reiterated in what sounded to us like a thinly veiled threat that Saudi Arabia has the capacity to protect its vital institutions.
It will be interesting to see what Japan officially concludes when it releases further statements and perhaps more details of its findings on the incident. On Wednesday, just before the attack, Japan's Abe told Rouhani that "no one wants a military clash" while speaking of the US so-called "maximum pressure" campaign and ratcheting tensions with Washington. Abe said at a press conference while standing beside Rouhani: “I decided to visit Iran as part of my efforts to ease tensions.”
PM Abe also called on Tehran's leaders to play a “constructive role” toward stabilizing the region and pursuing a calming of tensions.
And following this positive meeting with Japan's head of state that went in Iran's favor, what did Iran decide to do a mere hours later?... Attack a nearby Japanese tanker of course!