Trump warns Iran over 'sabotaged' tankers
President Donald Trump is warning Iran, saying that if Tehran does “anything” in the form of an attack “they will suffer greatly.”
Trump was asked Monday about two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel being damaged in what Gulf officials described as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
Details of the incident remain unclear. But it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.
Trump was asked about the sabotage,and responded: “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens.” The president spoke to reporters in the Oval Office while meeting with the prime minister of Hungary.
Meanwhile, European foreign ministers urged the United States and Iran to show restraint Monday amid fears of tensions tipping them easily into armed conflict, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed his counterparts on the threats Washington sees emanating from the Islamic republic.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, joined by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, made the appeal after Saudi Arabia said two oil tankers were sabotaged Sunday off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, one as it was heading to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States.
Washington has warned shipping companies that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf region and said it was deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers there to counter alleged threats from Tehran.
European countries that were co-signatories to a nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers have been racing to salvage the deal since the U.S. pulled out last year. The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, parties to Iran agreement, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who supervises the way the 2015 agreement is enacted, met in Brussels on Monday.
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters.
“What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking,” Hunt said.
In withdrawing from the nuclear accord, the U.S. said the agreement did nothing to stop Iran from developing missiles or destabilizing the Middle East. The Europeans insist the agreement was never meant to address those issues but has been effective in curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Tensions mounted last week, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave the remaining signatories 60 days to come up with a plan to shield his country from sanctions imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump after the U.S. withdrew from the deal.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the remarks suggesting that Iran might renege on the agreement as “very worrying.”