DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran mentioned on Monday it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA and sentenced a few of them to loss of life, an announcement President Donald Trump dismissed as “completely false” amid an escalating worldwide disaster over tankers within the Gulf.
FILE PHOTO – The Iranian flag flutters in entrance the Worldwide Atomic Power Company (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
The Iranian announcement got here hours earlier than Britain was because of unveil its response to Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker, a transfer that has escalated a three-month confrontation that just about drew the USA and Iran right into a taking pictures conflict.
“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is completely false. Zero fact. Simply extra lies and propaganda (like their shot-down drone) put out by a Non secular Regime that’s Badly Failing and has no thought what to do. Their Financial system is lifeless, and can get a lot worse. Iran is a complete mess!” tweeted Trump.
Iranian state tv printed photos it mentioned confirmed CIA officers who had been in contact with the suspected spies. The Ministry of Intelligence mentioned the 17 spies had been arrested within the 12 months to March 2019. Some had been sentenced to loss of life, in keeping with one other report.
Such bulletins aren’t uncommon in Iran and are sometimes made for home consumption. However the timing steered a hardening of the Iranian place because the Gulf disaster escalates.
In London, Prime Minister Theresa Might led a gathering of her authorities’s COBR emergency committee to answer Friday’s seize of the Stena Impero tanker by Iranian commandoes who abseiled onto its deck from helicopters within the Strait of Hormuz.
British ministers have been anticipated to unveil their plans in a speech to parliament afterward Monday. Regional consultants say London has few good choices to exert leverage over Iran at a time when Washington has already imposed the utmost doable financial sanctions, banning Iran’s world oil exports.
However the incident could immediate Britain and different international locations to be extra forthcoming as Washington has requested its reluctant allies to offer extra ships to assist safe the Gulf.
Requested on Fox Information about any doable U.S. function over the seized tanker, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned pointedly: “The accountability … falls to the UK to maintain their ships.”
Confrontation between the USA and Iran has spiraled since final yr when President Donald Trump pulled out of a global settlement signed by his predecessor Barack Obama which assured Iran entry to world commerce in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
In Might this yr Washington closed loopholes in sanctions, successfully barring all international locations from shopping for Iranian oil.
Since then, Iran has stepped up its nuclear exercise past limits within the deal and Washington has accused Tehran of attacking ships within the Gulf. In June, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone, Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes, solely to abort them minutes earlier than impression, the closest the USA has come to bombing Iran of their 40 yr historical past of animosity.
Final week the USA mentioned it had shot down an Iranian drone, which Tehran denied.
Washington’s main European allies Britain, France and Germany opposed Trump’s determination to give up the nuclear deal and have tried to stay impartial. However Britain was drawn extra immediately into the confrontation on July four when its Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, accused of violating European sanctions on Syria.
Iran repeatedly threatened to retaliate for that incident and has made little secret that its seize of the Stena Impero two weeks later was supposed as a retaliatory transfer. It says the ship is being held over security issues and the 23-member crew, together with 18 Indians and no British residents, are secure.
As Britain weighed its subsequent step, a recording emerged on Sunday of Britain’s solely warship within the Gulf radioing in useless to attempt to persuade Iranian forces to not board Stena Impero. That confirmed the issue a mid-sized naval energy would have in defending ships within the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, a very powerful waterway of the worldwide oil commerce.
The USA, which has an plane provider and a number of other different warships within the space as a part of its Fifth Fleet based mostly in Iran, has been making an attempt to enlist different international locations to hitch a global job drive to guard delivery.
The USA has been struggling to win its allies’ help for an initiative to intensify surveillance of Center East oil delivery lanes due to fears it is going to enhance stress with Iran, six sources aware of the matter mentioned.
Reporting by bureaux in Dubai, London and Washington; Writing by Michael Georgy and Peter Graff; Modifying by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jon Boyle