The US Department of Defense announced that it was releasing several new photos that it said prove Iranian forces were behind the attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Tehran has consistently denied involvement.
According to the Pentagon, the photos were taken from a Navy helicopter and show some of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards removing a mine from near the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker. A second photo purports to show a massive hole in the side of the Courageous, which the US said was caused by another mine.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” the Defense Department said.
The UK has said that its own independent investigation corroborates that Iran was involved in the attack. The EU, however, has urged caution before jumping to conclusions.
Later on Monday, Iran said it would soon breach limits on how much uranium it is supposed to enrich, accusing Washington of “nuclear blackmail.”
“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year. Since then, it has been angling to get Tehran to sign a more restrictive agreement, imposing economic sanctions and moving more troops to the region to step up pressure.
The US military confirmed on Monday that 1,000 more soldiers would be sent to region following the tanker attacks.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” said a statement from acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, adding that the deployment aimed “to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.”