While President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been unequivocal in their assertion that Iran was responsible for the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, some of America’s closest allies are demanding more proof.
Both Japan and Germany have requested more concrete evidence to support the Trump administration’s insistence that Iran was behind the twin attacks on the Norwegian-owned Front Altar and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday.
Following the explosions, the U.S. released a grainy video that allegedly showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the Courageous shortly after the initial blast.
The footage, Trump said Friday, was proof that “Iran did do it.”
“You know they did it because you saw the boat,” he told “Fox & Friends.”
But U.S. allies ― and the owner of the vessel itself ― have disagreed with this conclusion. The president of Kokuka said at a press conference that the Courageous appeared to be struck by something that “flew towards the ship,” and not by a mine as the Trump administration has suggested.
“I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,” Yutaka Katada said.
A senior Japanese government official told Japan Today that “the U.S. explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday that “the video is not enough.”
“We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” Maas told reporters.
Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s opposition leader, said more “credible evidence” was needed to support Trump’s allegation. However, UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said Britain is “almost certain” Iran was behind the attacks.
According to The New York Times, other European leaders have also been hesitant to lay the blame on Iran ― a doubt fueled in part by their “distrust of the Trump administration and its hawkish policy toward Tehran,” the paper said.
Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that there was “no doubt” that Iran was behind the attacks.
“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence. The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world over the past 40 days,” Pompeo said.
One such attack cited by the secretary of state was a May 31 car bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan, that injured four U.S. service members and killed four Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack but Pompeo insisted that it was really Iran who was behind the bombing.
Experts have cast doubt on this claim, however.
“If there was clearly a belief that Iran had hit troops in Afghanistan, it would have been huge news right away,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Asia program, told the Washington Post.
“This administration is itching for a fight with Iran,” Kugelman continued. “Unfortunately, that sometimes entails making some accusations against Iran that are somewhat questionable.”
Pompeo said Sunday that he was “confident” other allies would soon agree with the U.S. position.
“I am confident that as we continue to develop the fact pattern, countries around the world will not only accept the basic facts, which I think are indisputable, but will come to understand that this is an important mission for the world,” he said.