The Pentagon has released new photos officials said show members of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard were responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said: ”In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorised approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East. The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.
“United States does not seek conflict with Iran.”
Washington is preparing to send additional troops to the Middle East in response to mounting concerns over Iran, which Washington blames for attacks on oil tankers last week, two US officials said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
US Central Command said: “Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine.”
The build up of troops in the Middle East by the US would be in addition to the 1,500 troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May that were also blamed on Iran.
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US concerns about the threat to American forces and interests in the region have increased steadily in recent weeks, particularly after the oil tanker attacks at the entrance to the Gulf on Thursday.
The United States last week released a video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were behind Thursday’s attacks near the Strait of Hormuz.
The two oil tankers set on fire were the Norwegian-owned Front Altair, which was set ablaze, and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous.
Iran strongly denies the accusations that it was involved in the attacks on the tankers.
Attacking the current US sanctions, Iran’s armed forces commander Major General Mohammad Bagheri announced that if it wanted to stop the export of all oil from the Persian Gulf, it could, according to Iranian media reports. “Because of the strength of the country and its armed forces,” Iran has the power to stop the oil trade.
Iran has threatened many times in the past to close the Strait of Hormuz, where around one-third of the world’s sea-borne oil is shipped.
Oil tankers carrying crude from ports on the Persian Gulf must pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
Around 18.5 million barrels a day of crude and refined products moved through it in 2016, nearly a third of all seaborne-traded oil and almost 20 percent of all crude produced globally, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
In a statement Friday, the UK’s Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the attacks.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the UK should “ease tensions” in the region rather than “fuel a military escalation”.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt lashed out, branding Mr Corbyn “pathetic” after he questioned whether the UK had “credible evidence” Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.