WASHINGTON DC – The United States has no interest in entering a new conflict in the Middle East, but will defend US interests, including freedom of navigation, the United States military said on Thursday after sending a destroyer to an attack scene not in the Gulf of Oman.
The US Central Command said in a statement that the USS Mason destroyer was on its way to the site of the attacks that damaged two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier in the day. The USS Bainbridge destroyer remains in close contact with the damaged tanker M / V Kokuka Courageous and will not tolerate interference, the statement said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously said that the United States believes Iran is responsible for the attacks on the two tankers because of intelligence. But he of course offered no specific evidence of the episode’s connection with Tehran.
The Bainbridge vessel rescued 21 sailors from the Kokuka Courageous who left the ship, the Central Command statement said.
“The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests,” said Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown, a spokesman for Central Command. “Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.
“We have no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East,” Brown added. “We will defend our interests, but a war with Iran is not in our strategic interest, nor in the best interest of the international community.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated that the Islamic Republic does not seek war with the United States but will give “an overwhelming response” if it is attacked.
“Iran will never start a war, but it will give an overwhelming response to any invasion,” the Iranian leader said.
Rouhani made the remarks late Wednesday, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was at his side at a news conference in Tehran.
Rouhani also revealed that Japan wanted to continue to buy Iranian oil, although Tokyo has suspended US sanctions.
“Iran will remain committed to the agreement, which is important for the security of the region and the world. Tehran and Tokyo oppose nuclear weapons,” he said.
Rouhani added: “Whenever the economic war stops, we will see a very positive development in the region and in the world.”
The Japanese leader is in Tehran on a mission to calm tensions between the US and Iran. Abe is the first leader of Japan to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The administration of US President Donald Trump re-imposed heavy sanctions on Iran after deciding to withdraw from the framework of the 2015 nuclear deal a year ago. The United States has recently deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers in the Persian Gulf, raising fears of war.