More US troops to Middle East after oil tanker attacks

The US is sending 1,000 troops to the Middle East after last week’s attacks on two oil tankers from Norway and Japan in the Gulf of Oman blamed on Iran and Tehran’s announcement that its stockpile of enriched uranium will exceed the 300-kg limit set in the 2015 nuclear pact by June 27.

Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said the additional forces will handle defence threats in the Middle East, ensure the safety of US military personnel working in the region and protect US assets in the region.

Shanahan said more troops are being sent to the turbulent zone following a request from the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

He said the US is not going to wage a war with Iran. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that military action is among the options the US is considering.

Pompeo is set to discuss regional security and ongoing operations with commanders of CENTCOM and US Southern Command at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Florida.

Pentagon says members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are behind the attacks on tankers citing a video evidence and their proficiency to quickly remove the unexploded mine from one of the vessels targeted.

The UK and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran for the attacks but some of the EU members say it is too early to draw a conclusion and Thursday’s incidents in the strategic waterway have to be thoroughly investigated.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrestoo called for a fair investigation an independent entity to verify the facts and find those responsible for a string of attacks on oil tankers that have raised fears of a new gulf war.

In Iran, a spokesman for Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday that the countdown has started for the production of enriched uranium beyond the 300 kilograms limit agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal.

After exceeding the limit, Iran will increase the speed of enriched uranium production by above 3.67%, Kamalvandi said.

Iran decided to lift limits on nuclear activities on May 8, exactly one year after US President Donald Trump walked away from the nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

Iran still exercised restraint hoping that the remaining parties to the nuclear deal would take steps to offset the US sanctions.

But the parties — France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — did nothing to revive the deal and ease sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sector.

Addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Asian leaders that his country cannot remain committed to the nuclear deal unilaterally