President Donald Trump celebrated his birthday today with a marathon call with Fox & Friends, rambling for over 50 minutes. Along the way, the Fox crew, led by Brian Kilmeade, did its absolute best to get Trump to all but declare war on Iran.
On Thursday, U.S. officials claimed that Iran was responsible for attacks on two privately-owned oil tankers sailing through the Gulf of Oman, a narrow portion of sea bordered to the north by Iranian shoreline. “What are we going to do about it?” Kilmeade asked eagerly. Trump responded that “Iran did do it,” siding with U.S. intelligence reports that that country was responsible for the attacks. He then moved on to discussing the Iran nuclear deal and his predecessor, President Barack Obama’s dealings with the country, before Kilmeade cut in again: “They’ve hit four tankers, sir!”
Trump pivoted, again, to sanctions, saying repeatedly that “it was them that did it,” but reiterating that “we’re going to see how to stop them.” “They’ve changed a lot,” Trump said of the Iranians, saying they were “in charge of” opposition in 14 different “sites of conflict around the world.” “They were unstoppable when I took office and now they’re in deep trouble,” he said.
Kilmeade was referring to a series of less-severe attacks on oil tankers last month. Per the New York Times, an international investigation presented to the U.N. claimed those attacks were the work of divers deployed from “fast boats” to place limpet mines on the targeted ships. On Thursday, U.S. officials presented what they said was evidence that the attack on one of the tankers, the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, was similar. Video released by the Department of Defense purportedly shows sailors on a small Iranian military vessel removing an object from a ship the DoD says is the Courageous. The DoD said that the item was a mine, but right now, their word has yet to be confirmed by an independent investigation. The Japanese head of Kokaku Sangyo, the Courageous’ parent company, meanwhile, says his sailors report that the vessel was struck by a “flying object,” and not by mines.
Bellingcat, an independent, open-source investigative group that analyzes evidence from conflict zones, said on Friday that it was able to match the attack boat in the DoD video to ones in service with the Iranian military, but was not able to confirm that the ship in the video was the Courageous or that the object removed was a mine. It also stressed that there’s currently no evidence that points to a motive for removing the mine.
In other words, the details of the attack are still murky, and speculating on them is “pure conjecture” at the moment, according to Bellingcat. That certainly didn’t stop Fox & Friends, of course! Kilmeade also immediately brought up the possibility of Iran attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route in the oil trade through the Persian Gulf. “They’re not going to be closing it,” Trump said, but offered no further detail as to the likelihood of that happening or the U.S. response if it did. The Fox hosts turned to other topics, their open attempt to get a war declaration or escalation on air foiled for the time being.