The U.S. military said on Friday that Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) — which was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) last month — was directly responsible for attacks on tankers earlier this month.
“The attack against the shipping in Fujairah we attribute it to the IRGC,” said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, adding the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack to the IRGC. He declined to describe “the means of delivery” of the mines.
Earlier this month, an initial U.S. military assessment found that "Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies" were behind the attacks.
"The team of U.S. military experts was sent to investigate the damages at the request of the UAE, but American officials have not provided any details about what exactly happened or any proof as yet about the possible Iranian involvement in the explosions," the Associated Press reported. "Gulf officials have characterized the damage to the tankers as sabotage. Two Saudi oil tankers, a Norwegian-flagged vessel, and a bunkering tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, all suffered similar damage Sunday."
President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the U.S. was sending additional troops to the region as a defensive measure.
"We want to have protection in the Middle East. We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective," Trump said.
"The troops include personnel manning missile defense systems, aerial surveillance to spot threats and engineers to fortify defenses," Reuters noted in a separate report. "Eager to avoid escalation with Iran amid already heightened tensions, Pentagon officials stressed the defensive nature of the deployment in a news briefing and noted that none of the troops would be heading to hot spots like Iraq or Syria."
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated quickly over the last several weeks after attacks were made on Israel earlier this month, which former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said Iran was behind.
"What made Friday’s shooting on the IDF patrol interesting, Amidror said, was that it took place precisely when Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders were in Cairo putting the finishing touches on an agreement drawn up by Egypt that was designed to ease the tension in the South," The Jerusalem Post reported. "But while its leaders were in Cairo, Islamic Jihad fired on the soldiers. At first, the organization tried to deny responsibility for the attack."
"Why did the Islamic Jihad do this?" Amidror asked. "The answer is again and again and again — Iran."
"[Islamic Jihad] was established by Iran, financed by Iran, and does what Iran wants it to do," Amidror said, adding that the Iranian idea is that "Israel will be busy focusing on Gaza and not have enough energy to deal with the building up of an independent war machine in Syria."
As a result, the Trump administration deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a statement.
After another recent round of provocations from Iran, Trump tweeted: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!"