The video and images have yet to be confirmed, but a report from CNN today that a Reaper had been shot down in the Red Sea by what US officials claim was likely an Iranian missile fired by Houthi rebels, raises new questions over how active the tense situation in the Persian Gulf has become.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon today, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the US was planning to “make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate,” in the region.
The increasingly tense standoff between the US and Iran turned violent Thursday, when two civilian oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were damaged by explosions. The US said that limpet mines placed on the ships by Iran were to blame for the damage, and the USS Bainbridge and USS Mason guided missile destroyers were sent to assist the stricken Japanese oil tanker, Kokuka Courageous.
The Norwegian-owned tanker, Front Altair, is currently surrounded by Iranian gunboats.
The Pentagon on Thursday took the extraordinary step of releasing a video of an Iranian boat approaching one of the damaged tankers and removing what US officials say is an unexploded limpet mine from the side.
Shanahan, prior to meeting with Portuguese Defense Minister João Cravinho on Friday said the US is looking “to broaden our support for this international situation.”
Earlier in the day, Shanahan got that support from London, where UK Foreign Secretary Jerremy Hunt said the UK’s assessment “leads us to conclude that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran. These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region.”
But other allies are taking a slower approach, perhaps mindful of the performance US officials put on in 2002 in the run up to war with Iraq. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said today the video evidence isn’t enough, at least just yet. “We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” he said.