U.S. Accuses Iran of Carrying Out Fujairah Attacks

Port of Fujairah (file image)

Published May 24, 2019 10:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United States Department of Defense has formally accused Iran of carrying out the attack on four oil tankers at Fujairah's anchorage on May 12. In anonymous statements to media, U.S. officials have previously indicated that American investigators believe Iran was the likely culprit in the attack; a DoD statement issued Friday confirms that assessment. 

"In the recent past, Iranian leaders have publicly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz," said Navy Vice Adm. Mike Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, at a press briefing Friday. "They have backed up those threats with actions, posturing their forces in an effort to intimidate the movement of international trade and energy sources."

Iran's leaders have denied involvement in the Fujairah attacks, and some, like Iranian parliamentary leader Behrouz Nemati, have accused foreign entities of carrying them out in order to increase tensions in the region. 

Militarized dhows

The DoD also confirmed earlier reports that Iranian forces have been converting some number of traditional dhows for defense purposes. After the refit, these militarized wooden boats are capable of launching cruise missiles. Gilday described this as a component of a "dangerous, escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and destabilize the region."

Gilday told reporters Friday that the intelligence indicates that Iranian proxy groups intend to attack U.S. military personnel in the Middle East. As a preventative measure, acting secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 military personnel to the Middle East for force protection purposes. 

"I want to make clear that our policy toward Iran has not changed," said Katie Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. "As the president and secretary have made clear, we do not seek conflict with Iran. We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature."