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Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are again ratcheting up as the Trump administration accused Iran of orchestrating an attack Thursday on Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denied any involvement and accused the Trump administration of trying to sabotage diplomacy. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly accused Iran of attacking the oil tankers, and the U.S. released video of what it claimed was Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese oil tanker that was attacked.
However, the president of the Japanese company that owns the ship said it was not attacked by mines but two flying objects. He also said he doesn't believe any objects were attached to the side of the ship. We speak with Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are again ratcheting up as the U.S. accused Iran of orchestrating an attack Thursday on Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denied any involvement and accused the Trump administration of trying to sabotage diplomacy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly accused Iran of attacking the oil tankers, just hours after the incident.
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today. This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday night, the United States also released video of which it claimed was Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese oil tanker attacked. However, the president of the Japanese company that owns the ship said it was not attacked by mines but two flying objects. He also said he does not believe any objects were attached to the side of the ship. Iranian ships did approach the oil tankers after the attack, but, according to multiple news accounts, the Iranians helped rescue dozens of crew members from the tankers.
The timing of the incident also raised many questions as it came as the Japanese prime minister was visiting Iran in an attempt to bring Iran and the United States to the negotiating table. Iranian-American Trita Parsi said, quote, "Sounds like some are afraid Japan may succeed in starting diplomacy. The message appears to be: Don't you dare stand in the way of my war plans," Trita Parsi said. Last month, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacking four other oil tankers in the Persian Gulf but offered no evidence.
Well, for more, we're joined now by Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, chief editor of LeftWord Books. He's also the chief correspondent of Globetrotter. He is the author of several books, including The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Vijay Prashad. Respond to what's happening right now in the Gulf of Oman.
VIJAY PRASHAD: Hello, Amy. It's, I think, important to pay attention to the words you just used. You said that only hours after the attack or the bombings in the Norwegian and Japanese tanker, the U.S. Secretary of State went out there and blamed Iran -- hours after. You know, it's very interesting. There's a kind of rush to blame Iran for anything that's been happening around the Gulf of Hormuz.
People who look closely at the oil business understand that 50% of the world's oil goes through the Gulf of Hormuz. They understand that, you know, carrying oil is a dangerous activity. All kinds of things happen. There are accidents. There's piracy. There are a series of quite common risks faced by oil tankers. Iran is not one of those high on the list as far as risk assessors are concerned. And yet, of course, this is the first thing the United States government has said, as you said, without any evidence. So, within a few hours and without any evidence, the United States government once more provoking some sort of response from Iran, perhaps, or at least to try to galvanize public opinion to believe that Iran is a threat to the world.
What's really important here is, yes, the fact that Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in 41 years, he goes to Iran shortly after the Iranian foreign minister visited him in Japan. In fact, Mr. Zarif visited Shinzo Abe in his home. They had a very important conversation, where Shinzo Abe said that the Iranian nuclear deal is a factor of stability for West Asia. You know, this goes directly opposed to the Trump administration's view. And what's very important here is we're not talking about a country that's far from the American orbit. This is Japan, a reliable ally of the United States, which is not only reliant upon Iranian oil but understands that the warmongering in West Asia is going to be very bad, not only for Eurasia, but for the world. And I think we need to understand that as Shinzo Abe is in Japan [sic], this attack or this, you know, sabotage, or whatever it is...
AMY GOODMAN: Is in Iran.
VIJAY PRASHAD: took place on the Norwegian and Japanese tankers.