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Britain's Royal Navy sends 100 Marines to the Gulf to protect UK ships after Iranian attacks on tankers

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 15/06/2019 Ross Ibbetson For Mailonline and Afp
A picture obtained by AFP from Iranian News Agency ISNA on June 13, 2019 reportedly shows fire and smoke billowing from a tanker said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman. - Suspected attacks left two tankers in flames in the waters of the Gulf of Oman today, sending world oil prices soaring as Iran helped rescue stricken crew members. The mystery incident, the second involving shipping in the strategic sea lane in only a few weeks, came amid spiralling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has pointed the finger at Iran over earlier tanker attacks in May. (Photo by - / ISNA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty A picture obtained by AFP from Iranian News Agency ISNA on June 13, 2019 reportedly shows fire and smoke billowing from a tanker said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman. - Suspected attacks left two tankers in flames in the waters of the Gulf of Oman today, sending world oil prices soaring as Iran helped rescue stricken crew members. The mystery incident, the second involving shipping in the strategic sea lane in only a few weeks, came amid spiralling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has pointed the finger at Iran over earlier tanker attacks in May. (Photo by - / ISNA / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

The Navy will dispatch 100 Royal Marines to the Gulf to guard British ships after Iran attacked two oil tankers, raising the threat of war.

The US blamed Iran for the attacks with limpet charge mines in the busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of Oman, amid flaring tensions with the isolationist state.

Elite soldiers from 42 Commando will leave their Plymouth barracks to form Special Purpose Task Group 19, deploying on Royal Navy ships from Britain's new Bahraini base.

Video: How should the White House respond to Iran's latest provocation? (FOX News)

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Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London had concluded Iran was 'almost certainly' responsible for Thursday's tanker attacks. 

The Marine's will protect against small vessels, mines and naval missiles which might be targeted at Royal Navy boats or British merchant ships, The Times reported.

Donald Trump has said the oil tanker attacks had Iran 'written all over it', rejecting Tehran's vehement denial.  

Attacks on tankers have brought chilling echoes of the 1980s Tanker War which resulted in a one-day naval battle between the US and Iran.     

a close up of a map: A diagram showing the U.S. and Iranian forces in the region and the location of recent attacks on oil tankers and a Saudi oil pipeline, which have escalated Middle East tensions © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A diagram showing the U.S. and Iranian forces in the region and the location of recent attacks on oil tankers and a Saudi oil pipeline, which have escalated Middle East tensions The US military on Friday released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an 'unexploded limpet mine' from one of the tankers. 

Britain has backed the United States in blaming Iran for the tanker attacks and on Saturday, Iran summoned the British ambassador to complain about its 'unacceptable stance,' ISNA news agency reported.

'Rob Macaire, Britain's ambassador to Tehran, was summoned to the foreign affairs ministry... following the false remarks made by the British foreign affairs minister,' the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency. 

a flock of seagulls flying over a body of water: Royal Marines Commandos - including the 42 Commando unit being dispatched to the Gulf - taking part in arduous training exercises in Plymouth recently © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Royal Marines Commandos - including the 42 Commando unit being dispatched to the Gulf - taking part in arduous training exercises in Plymouth recently Other nations have urged caution. Germany said the video was not enough to prove Iran's role, while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation to determine responsibility.

China and the European Union called for restraint.

Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Britain should 'ease tensions' and 'not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.'

Hunt trashed his notion that the UK lacked 'credible evidence,' and branded Corbyn 'pathetic' for his 'virulent anti-Americanism.'  

a group of people swimming in a body of water: The Royal Marines elite commandos (pictured in training recently off Plymouth) will be tasked with protecting British merchant boats, as well as naval vessels in the Gulf © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Royal Marines elite commandos (pictured in training recently off Plymouth) will be tasked with protecting British merchant boats, as well as naval vessels in the Gulf In a statement, the Foreign Office said 'no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible' for the incident. 

Iran has repeatedly threatened to block the Hormuz Strait, a narrow seaway vital to the world's oil supplies, in the event of a conflict with the US. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the US had 'immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.'

The US has also accused Iran over May 12 sabotage attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off Fujairah. 

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump on Friday charged Iran with attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and warned Tehran their actions will not be taken lightly. 'Iran did do it,' Trump said on 'Fox & Friends' when he called in to the morning show for an interview © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited President Donald Trump on Friday charged Iran with attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and warned Tehran their actions will not be taken lightly. 'Iran did do it,' Trump said on 'Fox & Friends' when he called in to the morning show for an interview UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation.

'It's very important to know the truth (and) that responsibilities are clarified,' he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

'Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts.'

The oil tankers hit Thursday morning were 10 nautical miles apart and heading for Asia when they were struck by explosions after passing through the Strait of Hormuz, some 25 nautical miles off Iran's southern coast.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it: Smoke pours from the Norwegian-owned oil tanker on Thursday after it was hit by an explosion near the UAE and Iran in an apparent attack which has put the Middle East on high alert © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Smoke pours from the Norwegian-owned oil tanker on Thursday after it was hit by an explosion near the UAE and Iran in an apparent attack which has put the Middle East on high alert The Front Altair was carrying naphtha, a refined petroleum product, when it was hit by three explosions, according to Norwegian officials.

Blocking the Hormuz Strait would be a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure Iran could take against any attack by the United States, and would severely disrupt global oil supplies.

But Mr Trump played down the threat.

It's not going to be closed, it's not going to be closed for long and they know it. They've been told in very strong terms,' he said on Friday, referring to Iran. 

Timeline: Escalation in the Gulf region  

May 5: The U.S. says it is sending  the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group and a bomber task force to the Middle East because of a 'credible threat' from Iran.  

Since then Washington has announced the dispatch to the region of an amphibious assault ship, a Patriot missile battery and an extra 1,500 troops.

May 8: Iran vows to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels starting July 7 if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its nuclear deal. 

The U.S. responds by imposing fresh sanctions on Iran's steel and mining sectors. 

May 12:  Two Saudi oil tankers and two other ships are damaged in mysterious 'sabotage attacks' off the coast of Fujairah, part of the United Arab Emirates.

Washington believes Iran is to blame for the attacks, but Tehran denies involvement. 

May 14: Yemen's pro-Iranian Huthi rebels carry out drone attacks near Riyadh, shutting down a key Saudi oil pipeline.

Two days later Saudi-led coalition air strikes hit the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa.

The next day the U.S. orders all non-emergency diplomats to leave Iraq, due to an 'imminent' threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias.

May 19: Trump warns that if Iran attacks American interests 'that will be the official end of Iran'.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the 'genocidal taunts' of U.S. Trump will not 'end Iran'.

May 27: Trump says the U.S. is 'not looking for regime change' in Iran. 

May 30:  Saudi Arabia - which accuses Iran of being behind the acts of sabotage and the drone attack in May - gets the backing of Arab leaders in its standoff with Tehran at summits organised by Riyadh.

Iran accuses Riyadh of 'sowing division'.

June 6: The UAE says a multinational investigation into the sabotage attacks point to the likelihood a state was behind them, without incriminating Iran.

June 12: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives in Tehran in a bid to mediate between Washington and Tehran.

A Yemeni rebel missile attack on an airport at Abha, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, wounds 26 civilians. The Saudis accuse Iran of supplying the weapon. 

June 13: Two tankers, Norwegian and Japanese, are hit by explosions in apparent attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet says that it received two separate distress calls from the tankers in a 'reported attack'. 

Foreign Minister Zarif says the tanker 'attacks' as Abe visits are 'suspicious'.

Mr Abe meets Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who tells him: 'I don't consider Trump as a person worthy of exchanging messages with. I have no response for him and will not answer him.'   

Gallery: A look at the oil tankers and crew attacked in Gulf of Oman off Iran (USA TODAY)

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