Gulf of Oman
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking on the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • The US navy discovered an unexploded limpet mine attached to one of the two tankers attacked on Thursday.
  • The mine, which was discovered by the USS Bainbridge, is a potential smoking gun because it very likely points to Iran's involvement in the attack on the commercial vessels.
  • Iranian forces are not only suspected of using limpet mines in the attack on four tankers last month, but Iran also used mines in the Tanker Wars in the 1980s.
  • The US pinned the blame for the attack on Iran Thursday afternoon. The announcement sent the US West Texas Intermediate crude futures surging to $52.88 per barrel, or up 3.4% from the day's start.
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The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world's seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran's culpability in Thursday's attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit on Thursday, CNN reported, citing a US defence official. Another defence official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that "it's highly likely Iran is responsible."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday afternoon that Iran was responsible for the attacks, an announcement that briefly spiked US West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures up to $52.88 per barrel, or 3.4% from the day's start.

He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations but said US conclusions were "based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent 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."

The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and called in to assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive with a detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran, Iran's capital, has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined an unnamed "state actor" was behind the tanker attacks and concluded "it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed."

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that "we're not pointing to Iran, but we're not ruling anything out at this time." Another official asked the media outlet, "Who else could it be?"

Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: "I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it's not clear who did it. Well, it wasn't the Belgians. It wasn't the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They're the ones that did it. We've been warning about it."

In early May, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile-defence battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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