U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Iran attacked oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) earlier this month in an effort to push global crude prices higher.
“These were efforts by the Iranians to raise the price of crude oil throughout the world," Pompeo told reporters on May 30 before setting off on a trip to Europe.
Earlier in the day, the White House national-security adviser, John Bolton, said evidence that Iran was behind the attacks would be presented to the United Nations Security Council next week.
Asked if he had seen the evidence, Pompeo said: "Oh, yes. Ambassador Bolton got it right."
Tehran has denied any involvement in the attacks, calling the accusations “ridiculous” and calling out what it called Washington’s “malign intentions” in the region.
Also on May 30, the U.S. special representative for Iran repeated a U.S. warning that Washington will respond with military force if Tehran attacks its interests or those of its allies.
Brian Hook made the comments as Saudi Arabia urged Arab nations at an emergency summit in Mecca to confront with "all means of force" the recent attacks in the Persian Gulf that U.S. and Saudi officials have blamed on Iran.
Pompeo was to begin his four-nation trip to Europe with a stop on May 31 in Germany, traditionally one of the United States’ closest allies but which has had difficult relations with President Donald Trump.
Germany, among other European allies of the United States, has opposed Trump’s hard line on Iran and still backs a 2015 nuclear agreement that Tehran signed with six world powers.
Trump in May 2018 pulled out of the nuclear accord and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. Trump said the terms of the deal were not vigorous enough to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
Washington has stepped up financial pressure on Tehran as it looks to cut Iran's oil exports to zero by threatening sanctions against any buyers of the country's crude products.
Pompeo will also visit Switzerland and the Netherlands, then join Trump for his scheduled state visit in Britain.
Meanwhile, Saudi officials are hosting two emergency summits of Arab and Sunni Muslim Gulf leaders in Mecca to discuss the alleged sabotage of the oil tankers off the U.A.E. coast and a drone attack on Saudi oil installations by Yemen's Shi'ite Huthi rebels in recent weeks.
Saudi King Salman told a meeting of leaders before the summit that Arab nations must take a “decisive stance” against Iranian actions. He accused Tehran of perpetrating "terrorist acts" directly or through proxies as part of efforts to undermine Arab security.
"It must be said that the absence of a severe and firm stance toward the subversive actions of the Iranian regime in the region caused it to go too far, as we see today," he added.