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US says all options open on Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that the US is “considering a full range of options” with Iran, despite reiterating that President Donald Trump does not want to go to war.

Pompeo told CBS‘s “Face the Nation” that the President “will consider everything we need to do,” and that he is confident that the US can take “a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set”. When asked if a military response was included in that set of actions, Pompeo responded: “Of course. President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war.”

The US and the UK have blamed Iran for the attack last week on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Yesterday it was revealed that a US drone in the area was targeted just hours before the attack on the two tankers. According to US Central Command: “A modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a US MQ-9 over the Gulf of Oman to disrupt surveillance of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’] attack on the [motor tanker] Kokuka Courageous. The SA-7 was ineffective and its closest point of approach to the MQ-9 was approximately one kilometre.”

On Sunday, UK Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said “tensions” in Iran “are a concern for us all,” in an interview with Sky News. Ellwood said that while he understands Iran’s frustrations over the nuclear deal: “That does not give license to start attacking ships.” In a statement on Friday, the Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the attacks.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt branded Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “pathetic and predictable”, after he questioned whether the UK had “credible evidence” Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers. In a tweet, Corbyn questioned the UK assessment, saying that “without credible evidence”, the Government’s rhetoric “will only increase the threat of war”.

The Ministry of Defence announced that 100 personnel from 42 Commando, stationed near Plymouth, will fly to Bahrain shortly and operate from navy ships patrolling the waters. They will contribute to Special Purpose Task Group 19, operating out of Britain’s new £40m naval base in Bahrain.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said on Sunday that the US may have carried out “acts of sabotage” against the two tankers in order to blame Iran. The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported yesterday that Iran will announce further moves on Monday to scale back compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation tomorrow at the Arak heavy water site will announce preparatory steps that have been taken to further decrease Tehran’s commitments under the deal,” Tasnim said, including moves to increase stocks of enriched uranium and production of heavy water.