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Gulf of Oman tanker attacks: Your questions answered

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Japan's Kokuka Courageous and Norway's Front Altair were attacked on 13 June
The US government has accused Iran of being behind explosions which have damaged two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.The Iranian administration has denied any involvement despite the US military releasing a video it claims shows Iranian special forces removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers.
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Ray: In this day and age with so much satellite observation why isn't there more proof of who the attackers are?Well, you are right, satellites can be helpful but many of the most capable intelligence-gathering variety tend to belong to a very small group of countries and even then their coverage is not total. They need to be tasked to look at specific areas. I have no doubt the US is monitoring Iranian activity in the Gulf from a variety of platforms: satellites; aircraft; communications and signals intercepts; radar tracking and so on. Governments tend to be cautious - especially the Americans - about showing their satellite data. Often they do not want to reveal the full extent of their capabilities.
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Security correspondent Frank Gardner looks at the evidence the US says proves Iran's involvement in Thursday's attacks
As an aside, one of the most interesting developments over recent years is the use of civilian satellite data by security researchers and think tanks to significantly amplify our knowledge and to provide a separate source of satellite intelligence. This has, however, generally been used to study fixed locations, e.g. North Korean or Iranian rocket or nuclear facilities. It is very hard for such groups to monitor an area like the Gulf in real-time.
Harry: I want to know how many vessels were hit by mines prior to the US escalating their presence in the region.The "escalation" of the US military presence is to some extent a propaganda ploy by the US. The presence of a US aircraft carrier battle group for example - currently the USS Abraham Lincoln - is far from unusual. There has indeed been some reinforcement, notably a small number of warplanes; the return of a Patriot anti-missile battery; and a small amphibious unit. Again, it is all about sending signals rather than necessarily preparing for conflict. But there is no doubt that the US retains a formidable military capability in the region. As to chronology, the earlier limpet mine attack on the four vessels was on 12 May. Prior to this (around 10 May) the US had announced it was stepping up its deployments to the region following what it said were concerns that Iranian elements or proxy forces were planning a number of attacks against US interests. Specifically, they claim to have seen missiles being loaded onto boats. Subsequently that threat seems to have passed, but in the meantime the four tankers were mined.
Gulf of Oman tanker attacks: Your questions answered

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