0221 GMT January 19, 2020
Japan says ‘cannot simply believe’ US allegation against Iran
Iran's parliament speaker hinted Sunday that Washington could be behind the "suspicious" tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman to pile pressure on Tehran.
"The suspicious actions against the tankers... seem to complement the economic sanctions against Iran considering that (the US) has not achieved any results from them, [also,] especially, given America’s historical record in the area [of false flag ops]," Ali Larijani told MPs according to IRNA.
He backed his remark by saying there had been a precedent "during World War II, when Americans targeted their own ships near Japan to create an excuse for hostility".
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman.
The attacks took place at the same time that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran for talks aimed at defusing tensions between Iran and the United States.
Shortly after the incidents on Thursday morning, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran, without offering any evidence. Iran has rejected the accusation, and a piece of footage later released by the US as proof of Iranian involvement has been discredited by experts and dismissed by other governments.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the US claim as "baseless" and said Washington had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran – (without) a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence".
Larijani mocked remarks by Pompeo, who urged Iran to “meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not with terror, bloodshed, and extortion.”
The Iranian official then named a series of measures taken by the US against Iran and asked if they constituted “diplomacy.”
“Is it diplomacy to start a face-off with a revolutionary nation with acts of economic terrorism, [economic sanctions] which they themselves call the toughest ever?” said.
“Is it diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo, to renege on one’s promises in the nuclear agreement?” he said, referring to the US’s unilateral withdrawal from a multilateral deal with Iran.
Ever since that pullout in May 2018, the administration of US President Donald Trump has been waging what it calls a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.
Japanese government sources said Sunday that Tokyo considers Washington’s allegations about Iran’s involvement in the tanker attacks unconvincing and asked for concrete evidence.
“The US explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation," senior government official told Kyodo News.
Pompeo said in a press conference Thursday that the US assessment was based on their "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."
A source close to Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said that Pompeo’s claims “are not definite proof that it's Iran."
"Even if it's the United States that makes the assertion, we cannot simply say we believe it," he said.
If having expertise sophisticated enough to conduct the attack could be a reason to conclude that the attacker was Iran, "that would apply to the United States and Israel as well," said a source at the Foreign Ministry.
The attacks occurred around the time Abe was meeting with Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
The Japanese government has refrained so far from commenting on who is responsible for the attacks.
AFP and Press TV also contributed to this story.