Going to war with Iran over Thursday’s oil tanker explosions in the Gulf of Oman would be “disastrous” for the US, says a prominent foreign policy expert.
The warning relates to two mine explosion attacks on Japanese-owned oil tanker Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair.
Washington has blamed Iran for the attacks – the US military has released a video it claims shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese tanker.
But the owner of the Japanese tanker has contradicted the US account of what happened.
Yutaka Katada, president of Japanese company Kokuka Sangyo, said the Filipino crew onboard thought their vessel had been hit by flying objects rather than a mine.
“To put a bomb on the side is not something we are thinking,” Mr Katada said.
Iran, meanwhile, has “categorically” rejected the US’s accusations.
Australian Institute of International Affairs national executive director Dr Bryce Wakefield said that, given tensions between the US and Iran were becoming increasingly high, war was a “possibility”.
“There is certainly a chance of combat or conflict, maybe a move to ensure that the straits near the Gulf of Oman remain open,” Dr Wakefield told The New Daily.
However, he also said it was important to note any perceived attacks in the region by Iran would be emphasised by the US government.
“It’s important to remember the US has ratcheted up tensions with Iran since (US President Donald) Trump took office,” Dr Wakefield.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation, saying the world could not afford a major confrontation in the Gulf.
“It’s very important to know the truth and it’s very important that responsibilities are clarified,” said Mr Guterres.
“Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts.”
Mr Guterres and his staff have been in contact with many of the countries concerned to tell them of the need to avoid any escalation.
Last month in a Twitter post, Mr Trump blamed his predecessor Barack Obama for helping Iran become “the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world”.
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” Mr Trump tweeted.
If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
But Dr Wakefield said using the recent oil tanker explosions “as a reason to go to war would be a disastrous move on the part of the United States”.
“The US is phasing down from incredibly long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and I don’t really think they’re prepared to take on Iran in any sustained conflict,” Dr Wakefield said.