WASHINGTON - This article originated in VOA's Persian Service. Nike Ching contributed from the State Department.
A senior U.S. official has shared new information about suspected Iranian attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, saying Iranian vessels approached the tankers before the attacks happened.
Testifying to a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said U.S. intelligence has confirmed that Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and June 13 approached the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous before each vessel suffered explosions in the Gulf of Oman on June 13 in the early morning local time.
"I can also say that a senior IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) official confirmed that … IRGC personnel had completed two actions," Hook told the Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism subcommittee in response to a question from Republican Congressman Joe Wilson.
It was not immediately clear which IRGC official Hook was referring to, or whether the "two actions" purportedly mentioned by the official were in reference to the attacks on the two tankers.
The State Department declined a VOA Persian request to elaborate on Hook’s comments when contacted later Wednesday.
U.S. officials have accused Iran of attacking the tankers with limpet mines and have released images that they say show IRGC forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels, the Kokuka Courageous. Iranian officials have denied the accusations.
The U.S. military previously had reported observing Iranian military vessels in the vicinity of the Front Altair in the hours after the attacks. But Hook's statement was the first by the U.S. alleging that Iranian military vessels also had approached the two tankers in the day leading up to the attacks.
"We're going to keep doing what we can to declassify intelligence without compromising sources and methods," Hook said. "Those who have been able to see the intelligence … all come away without any question that Iran is behind these attacks," he added, referring to U.S. allies such as Britain and Germany who have said they see strong evidence of Iranian involvement.