WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is warning Iran, saying that if Tehran does "anything" in the form of an attack "they will suffer greatly".
Trump was asked Monday about two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel being damaged in what Gulf officials described as a "sabotage" attack off the coast of the UAE.
Details of the incident remain unclear. But it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the US and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.
Trump was asked about the sabotage, and responded: "It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens."
He spoke to reporters in the Oval Office while meeting with the prime minister of Hungary.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash on Monday said the investigation into the sabotaging of four vessels off the UAE coast on Sunday was being conducted professionally and all facts will be uncovered.
“The UAE received great support following the deliberate sabotage of four vessels in our territorial waters. This is the result of the UAE’s positive attitudes and support for peace and stability worldwide,” Gargash tweeted. “The investigation is underway and running professionally, and everything will come to light and we’ll uncover all facts.”
Underling the regional risk, GCC Secretary-General Abdul Lateef Al Zayani described the sabotage as a “serious escalation”. Analysts told Gulf News they suspected Iran was behind the operation. Riyad Qahwaji, CEO of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said that the operation “could be a message from Iran to the international community that it is serious in its threats. It could also be an attempt to gauge the reaction and see how serious the US and its allies in the region are about dealing with an escalating Iranian policy.”
At the White House, US President Donald Trump warned Iran against a military provocation and said the country “will suffer greatly” if hostilities break out with the US. Asked about the sabotage of ships, he responded: “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens.”
“I’m hearing little stories about Iran,” Trump added. “If they do anything they will suffer greatly.”
A US official familiar with American intelligence said Iran is a leading candidate for having carried out the attacks but the US does not have conclusive proof Tehran was behind them.