Remarks at a Press Availability Following Closed UN Security Council Consultations on Iran

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 24, 2019


Good afternoon. I just finished briefing the Security Council on additional information we’ve uncovered through our investigation into the oil-tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. The information I shared is the result of close interagency coordination within the U.S. government, as well as ongoing cooperation with our allies and partners. I explained our investigation into the attacks is ongoing, and we will continue to share information with the Security Council as it becomes available.

What I shared today includes information about both the May 12 attacks at Fujairah as well as the attacks on June 13 in the Gulf of Oman. I addressed Iran’s unprovoked attack against a U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace as well.

Let’s review what we know about the Fujairah attack. The attackers carefully targeted the four ships from among the roughly 185 vessels present in the anchorage area. The attackers conducted extensive real-time reconnaissance to identify the vessels and carry out the attack quickly while the ships were stationary. The divers who placed the mines needed to have extensive knowledge of the vessels. They placed those mines in the same place on each vessel, specifically to disable but not to destroy them. Finally, the attackers staged the detonations to explode within a very short timeframe.

This leads us to the conclusion that a sophisticated state actor was responsible for these attacks, a conclusion the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Norway also reached. The only state actor with the capabilities and the motive to carry out these attacks is Iran. There is no other credible explanation.

In the case of the June 13 Gulf of Oman attacks, U.S. information confirms Iranian vessels approached the two tankers before the explosions took place, and then monitored the vessels as the explosions happened. I also outlined for the Council why we have high confidence that the limpet mines used in the attack were of Iranian origin and design, from the green composite material used to the location and number of nail holes. And we have video of a Gashti patrol boat, which is used only by the Iranian navy, pulling up at high speed next to one of the attacked tankers to remove an unexploded limpet from its hull. It’s striking that the patrol boat knew exactly where to look for this unexploded mine, and did not use any of the standard procedures you would expect from a team approaching an unknown explosive ordnance. The Iranian navy knew exactly how the mine was supposed to function and exactly where it was. The removal and confiscation of the mine suggest an attempt by Tehran to hide its involvement in the attacks.

Based on this evidence, it is clear to us, and it should be to the world, that Iran was responsible for the May 12 and June 13 attacks against ships in the Persian Gulf. Such attacks pose a serious threat to the freedom of navigation and commerce in one of the world’s most important waterways.

Lastly, I discussed with the Council Iran’s unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance aircraft that was present to monitor the area given these recent threats to international shipping and commerce. The coordinates of the drone’s flight path and location, which I shared with the Council, make clear that the aircraft at no point entered Iranian air space. Iran’s claims to the contrary are false and rely on an argument that the U.S. aircraft was in Iran’s flight information region. But a country’s flight information region is not the same as their airspace. In this case, the flight information region extends further.

The Security Council and all nations should try to imagine the future of global air travel if a country can shoot down an aircraft merely for being in its flight information region. Indeed, we’ve already seen air carriers from around the world avoid Iran’s flight information region as a result.

Iran must understand that these attacks are unacceptable. It’s time for the world to join us in saying so.

Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table. Iran should, as I said two weeks ago, meet diplomacy with diplomacy—a call Iran described as inflammatory—because I also said not with attacks on ships, infrastructure, and drones surveilling the safety of commerce in international airspace.

We will continue our investigation in a fully transparent and impartial manner. And we are working closely with a range of international partners and allies, committed to sharing more information as we get it. Given the importance of the situation, I again asked the Council to remain seized of this matter. Thank you.