Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, walks to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe's official residence in Tokyo Thursday, May 16, 2019. Iran's foreign minister has said his country is committed to an international nuclear deal and criticized escalating U.S. sanctions "unacceptable" as he met with Japanese officials in Tokyo amid rising tensions in the Middle East.(AP Saudi Arabia said drones attacked one of its pipeline.; TOKYO – Iran's foreign minister says his country is committed to an international nuclear deal but that the escalating U.S. sanctions are "unacceptable." The remarks come amid rising tensions in the Mideast, with allegations of sabotage targeting oil tankers near the Persian Gulf, a drone attack by Yemen's Iranian-allied rebels and the dispatch of U.S. warships and bombers to the region.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A small oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker two days ago, leading the U.S. to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the region, an American defense official said Tuesday. Iran offered no immediate comment on what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late Saturday night, though an Emirati official acknowledged the vessel sent out no distress call. Oil tankers previously have been targeted in the wider region amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. The concern about the Riah comes as Iran continues its own high-pressure campaign over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord over a year ago. Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.
Qatar restored full diplomatic relations with Iran early on Thursday and promised to send its ambassador back to Tehran -- a move counter to the demands of Arab nations trying to isolate Doha as part of a regional dispute. In announcing its decision, Qatar made no mention of the diplomatic crisis roiling Gulf Arab nations since June, when Doha found its land, sea and air routes cut off by the four Arab states. Iran, which welcomed Doha's decision, has sent food to Qatar and allowed its airplanes to increasingly use the Islamic Republic's airspace. Perhaps not unrelated, the move comes just days after Saudi Arabia began promoting a Qatari royal family member whose branch of the family was ousted in a palace coup in 1972. "Qatar has shown it is going to go in a different direction," said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University who lives in Seattle.
ABU DHABI - President Donald Trump's national security adviser warned Iran on Wednesday that any attacks in the Persian Gulf will draw a "very strong response" from the U.S., taking a hard-line approach with Tehran after his boss only two days earlier said America wasn't "looking to hurt Iran at all." John Bolton's comments are the latest amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran that have been playing out in the Middle East. Bolton spoke to journalists in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which only days earlier saw former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warn there that "unilateralism will not work" in confronting the Islamic Republic. The dueling approaches highlight the divide over Iran within American politics. The U.S. has accused Tehran of being behind a string of incidents this month, including the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the Emirati coast, a rocket strike near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and a coordinated drone attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels. On Wednesday, Bolton told journalists that there had been a previously unknown attempt to attack the Saudi oil port of Yanbu as well, which he also blamed on Iran.
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump issued an ominous warning to Iran on Sunday, suggesting that if the Islamic republic attacks American interests, it will be destroyed. "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again," Trump said in a tweet. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been on the rise as the United States has deployed a carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over what it termed Iranian "threats." This account has been met with widespread skepticism outside the United States.