03:51 GMT +315 November 2019
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    White House Planning 'Massive' Tactical Strike Against Iran – Reports

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    Countries around the world have expressed concerns over Washington's plans to deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East on top of the already considerable presence stationed there following last week's apparent sabotage attacks against two oil tankers off Iran's coast.

    The United States is planning to carry out a "massive" tactical attack on an Iranian target, a Western diplomat at the UN headquarters in New York has told Israel's Maariv newspaper.

    "The bombing will be massive but will be limited to a specific target," the anonymous source said, without specifying exactly what type of target this might be.  

    In its coverage of the story, The Jerusalem Post suggested that the attack may target a facility linked to Iran's nuclear programme.

    According to Maariv's sources, the White House has discussed the option of military action against Iran at length, with President Trump himself unenthusiastic about the prospects of strike, but 'losing patience' and allowing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has made more hawkish statements on the matter, to push forward with his preferred policies.

    High-level discussions on possible military options involved senior commanders, Pentagon officials and advisers to the president, according to the anonymous officials.

    An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019
    © REUTERS / TASNIM NEWS AGENCY
    An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019

    Last week, following the apparent sabotage attacks against two 'Japan-related' tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Secretary of State Pompeo almost immediately blamed Iran for the attacks. Tehran categorically rejected Pompeo's allegations. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the US made its claims "without a shred of factual or [even] circumstantial evidence" and accused Trump administration officials and their Gulf allies of engaging in "sabotage diplomacy" to "cover up" their "economic terrorism against Iran."

    Last Friday, the president of the Japanese company operating one of the tankers which were hit in Thursday's attack challenged the US version of events, saying the vessel's crew saw an object flying toward them before the blast. The official's remarks contradict US allegations about Iranian military forces using mines attached to the ships to carry out the attacks.

    Several major US allies, including Germany, France, and Japan, have expressed similar doubts regarding US claims regarding the tanker attacks, although UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that an independent intelligence assessment by London had shown that Iran was "almost certainly" behind the sabotage.

    A handout photo made available by the Norwegian shipowner Frontline of the crude oil tanker Front Altair during the firefighting of the fire onboard the ship in the Gulf of Oman
    © REUTERS / NTB SCANPIX
    Crude oil tanker Front Altair during the firefighting of the fire onboard the ship in the Gulf of Oman

    On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the US' decision to deploy 1,000 more troops to the Middle East against Iran threatened to open a "Pandora's Box." Moscow, meanwhile, said that the US' policy of "political, psychological, economic and military pressure on Iran" was "quite provocative" and amounted to efforts to "provoke a war."

    Tensions between Iran and the US began to escalate in May 2018, when the US unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear program and reinstated tough sanctions against Tehran. Last month, Iran announced that it would withdraw from some of its voluntary commitments under the nuclear deal. Tehran maintains that it is not looking to pursue nuclear weapons.

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