US To Send 1,000 More Troops To Counter Iran As Pentagon Releases New Photographs Of Tanker Attack

Just in case you, like most of the rest of the world (including specifically the Japanese, who demanded more proof), were not convinced of Iran's culpability in the attacks on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the Pentagon has released new, upgraded images and a timeline of events.

During a Monday press briefing it provided more details it said bolsters the US narrative of events, and even including a Navy explosives expert who in a presentation walked reporters through reasons why a mine placement above the Kokuka Courageous' waterline meant the intent was to damage the tanker but not to 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 published with the photos. 

Image source: Reuters/US Navy

However, as we previously noted, this particular incident has been met with a nearly unprecedented amount of public and media skepticism, even from the likes of CNN, which had initially bluntly acknowledged, "Iran doesn't appear to have a lot to gain". In that same report last week, CNN went so far as to agree with Iran's foreign minister that the whole narrative was just too terribly simplistic and convenient, as CNN surprisingly put it: 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.

The United Nations, meanwhile, along with the European Union, has urged caution and restraint, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling for an independent investigation, saying "it is very important to know the truth." And notably Germany's foreign minister said that the grainy video provided by the US Navy was not enough to convince Berlin of Iran's guilt. 

Yet in predictable fashion the White House is already mulling additional military deployments to the Middle East, including fighter jets, Patriot missile batteries, and even ground combat troops, according to Reuters. We've also entered the all too familiar "a range of options are on the table" rhetoric, as Pompeo said in recent statements. 

As of Monday evening US CENTCOM announced the US will send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East as part of preparedness should American assets or allies come under threat from Iran or its proxies. 

Image source: Reuters/US Navy

Via ABC News: "The new color images released by U.S. Central Command show an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Ghashti-class patrol boat alongside the Kokuka Courageous during and after the removal of the unexploded mine that had been left on the ship's hull."

Image source: Reuters/US Navy

Via ABC: There are also close-up photos that show the ring around where magnets had attached the mine to the ship, as well as composite residue from the mine still on the ship’s hull. Additional photos from the Pentagon show the holes caused to the two tankers by the mines.

Image source: Reuters/US Navy

The Pentagon during Monday's briefing doubled down on its claim that it couldn't have been a torpedo, which is why it emphasized the mine being placed above the waterline.

Also interesting was the explanation concerning why IRGC personnel - according to the US claim - would engage in a dangerous demining operation with so many people aboard the small craft that went to the side of the Kokuka Courageous, per ABC:

The officials described the attempt to remove the unexploded mine in the way shown in the images as "very high risk" and not a way that the U.S. Navy would have ever undertaken. According to those officials they would have removed the mine remotely with as few personnel around the ship as possible. 

Below is the Pentagon's newly updated timeline on June 13 near the Strait of Hormuz, providing the US perspective of events. 

* * * 

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.Iran's 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 Friday he said, "Unilateral US actions - incl. its #EconomicTerrorism on Iran - are solely responsible for insecurity & renewed tension in our region."