Updated at 3:12 p.m. ET on June 13, 2019.
More ships burned in the Gulf of Oman today, hours after a missile hit a Saudi airport and weeks after explosions hit four other vessels in the region. As threats escalate between the United States and Iran, multiple other countries—whose tankers traverse the strategic waterways, whose oil supplies depend on safe navigation, and whose people and infrastructure are vulnerable to rockets from Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels—are getting sucked into the morass.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this afternoon blamed Iran for the shipping attacks. “No proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” he told reporters at a press conference. He called the explosions part of an “unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” and said Iran is “lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum-pressure campaign lifted.”
In May, it was Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Norway whose oil tankers were subject to what the UAE called “sabotage” attacks. U.S. officials blamed those on Iran, though the Iranians denied responsibility and the affected countries have blamed only an unnamed “state actor” since conducting their investigation. Today it was Japan, where a company owning one of the affected ships is based and whose prime minister has been in Tehran to soothe tensions; Panama and the Marshall Islands, under whose flags the tankers were operating; and Singapore and Taiwan, where the ships’ cargo was destined. And this time, the U.S. Navy got involved, sending a nearby destroyer to help rescue people evacuating the affected ships.