US National Security Adviser John Bolton said attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates this month were the work of “naval mines almost certainly from Iran” – without offering evidence.
Iran responded on Wednesday by calling the accusation “ridiculous”.
The comments on Wednesday by Bolton, a longtime American hawk on Iran who has previously called for “the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran“, came during a briefing to journalists in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.
“It’s clear that Iran is behind the Fujairah attack. Who else would you think would be doing it? Someone from Nepal?” he told journalists at the US embassy briefing regarding the May 12 attacks.
“There is no doubt in anybody’s minds in Washington, we know who did this and it’s important Iran knows we know,” he added.
Iran has denied involvement in the oil-vessel attacks and has accused the United States of fabricating a crisis in the Gulf, after Washington deployed an aircraft carrier strike group, more B-52 bombers, and an additional 1,500 American troops to the region.
Iran’s foreign ministry rejected Bolton’s allegations. Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said it was a “ridiculous accusation” but “not a strange thing” since it came from someone with a long record of anti-Iran sentiment.
Bolton also said there was a failed attack recently on the Saudi oil port city of Yanbu.
The city is the final point of Saudi Arabia’s east-west pipeline, which was recently targeted by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a coordinated drone strike.
Bolton said he suspected Iran was behind the failed attack, but did not elaborate or give evidence for the claim.
Officials in Saudi Arabia could not be immediately reached for comment.
Bolton also told reporters the US was trying to be prudent in responding to alleged activities of Iran and its proxies in the region, and he dismissed the idea there were any differences between his position and that of US President Donald Trump.
“I am the national security adviser, not the national security decider,” he said.
Bolton said there was “no reason” for Iran to breach the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers other than to seek atomic weapons.
Speaking to journalists ahead of meetings he planned with top Emirati officials, Bolton said: “There’s no reason for them to do it unless it is to reduce the breakout time to nuclear weapons.”
Trump’s national security adviser is visiting the UAE amid heightened tensions across the Gulf.
Bolton tweeted he arrived in the Emirates for meetings on Wednesday “to discuss important and timely regional security matters”.
The US unilaterally pulled out of the historic nuclear deal with Iran and world powers a year ago.
Iran now says it too will begin backing away from the accord.
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons and accused the US of causing regional tensions and “hurting the Iranian people”.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “long ago said we’re not seeking nuclear weapons – by issuing a fatwa [edic]) banning them”, Zarif tweeted.