Jeremy Hunt condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Gulf of Oman oil tanker attacks as “pathetic and predictable” after the Labour leader questioned whether there was credible evidence Iran was responsible.
The US accused Iran of carrying out Thursday’s attacks on two oil tankers and the British government announced Friday that it was “almost certain” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was responsible. Iran has denied responsibility.
Mr Corbyn said the government’s response was making war more likely.
“Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement,” Mr Corbyn said. “Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.”
The foreign secretary, who is also running to be next Conservative leader and prime minister, responded on Twitter, calling Mr Corbyn’s comments “pathetic and predictable”.
Mr Corbyn tweeted:
Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 14, 2019
“From Salisbury to the Middle East, why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?” Mr Hunt said.
The US has so far released a grainy video which it says show Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from the side of one of the oil tankers.
Donald Trump said the video was proof that Iran was trying to cover up its involvement in the attack by removing the evidence.
Analysts said the video was not definitive although it did appear to show Iranian forces pulling alongside one of the damaged oil tankers several hours after the attack and removing something.
“Nothing presented as evidence proves that the object was placed there by the Iranians. The video shows only that the Iranians chose to remove it for an as yet unknown reason,” said Eliot Higgins, the head of the Bellingcat investigative group.
"I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got essentially Iran written all over it. And you saw the boat at night trying to take the mine off and successfully took the mine off the boat, and that was exposed," he said.
The price of oil rocketed on Thursday amid fears of disruption to one of the world's most important tanker routes as a result of instability in the region.
The suspected attacks came after four commercial ships were "subjected to sabotage operations" in the Arabian Gulf in May.
The FCO said a UAE-led investigation concluded that they were conducted by "a sophisticated state actor".
"We are confident that Iran bears responsibility for that attack," the FCO said.