The Pentagon said Thursday it had no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East as it sent a destroyer to the scene of attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
“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,” U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement.
His remarks came after two commercial tankers — the Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair and Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous — were on their way to Taiwan and Singapore from Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively when they were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman.
The strait is a vital waterway, with roughly one-third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and a fifth of its oil consumption transiting through it each day.
Brown said the destroyer USS Mason was en route to the scene of the attacks.
Calling Thursday’s attacks “a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce,” Brown said the U.S. and its partners in the region will take all necessary precautions to “defend ourselves and our interests”.
Earlier, the USS Bainbridge rescued 21 mariners from the Kokuka Courageous and they are currently aboard the destroyer.
“The USS Bainbridge remains in close contact with the M/V Kokuka Courageous and is the on-scene U.S. command authority,” said Brown. “No interference with the USS Bainbridge, or its mission, will be tolerated.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Tehran, describing the attacks as part of “an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran”.