Iraq has delegated explosives experts to examine and deactivate a mine found on the hull of an oil storage oil tanker in waters alongside the Persian Gulf near the Iraqi coast, The Associated Press reported, citing local authorities.
According to the statement, a special team from Iraq’s Interior Ministry evacuated the vessel that was receiving fuel from storage. Experts are still working to neutralize the explosive device, identified as a limpet mine installed by special forces military divers on a ship’s hull under the waterline.
Reports by Western media suggest that the development comes as relations are strained between the US and Iran amid a US military buildup in the Persian Gulf ahead the one-year commemoration of Soleimani’s assassination. Citing the possibility of revenge, throughout the last months Washington has sent Ohio-class submarine USS Georgia, a strike group led by the USS Nimitz which included two guided-missile cruisers, the USS Princeton and USS Philippine Sea, and a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Sterett. On 30 December, American nuclear-capable B-52 high-altitude bombers performed a flyover in the Persian Gulf reportedly in another show of force against Iran.
On Thursday, Iran's Permanent Representative to the UN sent a letter to the President of the Security Council and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in which he expressed concern about a possible new military adventure in the Persian Gulf by the United States.
“Besides sending advanced weapons to the region in the past few weeks, the United States has carried out some provocative military actions, including the flight of a number of its long-range strategic bombers over the Persian Gulf in recent days… If these actions calling for war are not controlled, tensions could rise to dangerous levels, and it is clear that the United States will be fully responsible for all the consequences”, the diplomat noted.
On 24 December Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed that “Trump will bear full responsibility” for the assassination.
.@realDonaldTrump uses a worthless photo to recklessly accuse Iran.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 24, 2020
Last time, the US ruined our region over WMD fabrications, wasting $7 TRILLION & causing 58,976 American casualties.
FAR WORSE this time. Trump will bear full responsibility for any adventurism on his way out. pic.twitter.com/scCeSwjUmE
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the al-Quds Force, was assassinated in a targeted US missile strike near the Baghdad airport, a move directly approved by the outgoing US president, Donald Trump. In response, Tehran launched missile attacks on two US military bases - the Ain al-Assad base and the Erbil airbase. Tehran has repeatedly stated that it will avenge the extrajudicial killing of its al-Quds commander.