Iran's supreme leader said Thursday that President Trump was not “worthy” of a reply as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s effort to ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran ended in a dud amid this week's attacks on oil tankers.
Abe's two-day visit to Iran was the first by a Japanese prime minister in decades and was aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Trump weighed in on Abe’s visit, saying that while he appreciated the prime minister's intentions, neither the U.S. nor Iran was ready for another deal. “They are not ready, and neither are we!” Trump wrote in a tweet.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, meanwhile, took a more personal shot at Trump, saying the U.S. president was just not “worthy” of his reply.
“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” Iranian state media quoted Khamenei as saying, Reuters reported.
“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future.”
But the effort to find a peaceful solution to the latest standoff quickly soured thanks to outside forces. On Tuesday, the day of Abe’s arrival, Iran-backed rebels in Yemen hit a Saudi airport, injuring 26 people.
On Thursday, two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman were reportedly attacked, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blaming the Iranian regime for the “blatant assault.”
An Iranian vessel then removed an unexploded mine that had been attached to a Japanese-owned oil tanker which suffered serious damage after an explosion in the Gulf of Oman early Thursday, U.S. officials told Fox News, as the U.S. Navy released video purportedly showing the incident.
A U.S. official told Fox News an Iranian gunboat approached the Kokuka Courageous later in the day and removed the unexploded triangular-shaped limpet mine, the same type of mine used to damage four other tankers in the Gulf of Oman last month.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said the suspected Iranian vessel did not bear any flags, nor did the crew members wear any uniforms. But, the class of vessel, what the U.S. military has called a fast inshore attack craft (FIAC), was the same type of ship used by Iran to harass American warships in the Persian Gulf in recent years.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Friday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a summit in Kyrgyzstan and reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to foster ties with the Iranian regime, potentially irking American officials who fear a strengthening of ties between adversaries of the U.S.
Rouhani slammed the Trump administration during the summit, accusing it of pursuing an aggressive policy against Iran.
While the Iranian leader didn’t mention the tankers, he said the U.S. is "using all opportunities for radicalizing the situation, which undermines the stability not only in our region but in the whole world."
He added that America has been "carrying out an aggressive policy and posing a serious threat to regional stability."
Pompeo said during the news conference on Thursday that the claim that Iran perpetrated the attacks on oil tankers is based “intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
He charged that Iran was working to disrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and this was a deliberate part of a campaign to escalate tension, adding that the U.S. would defend its forces and interests in the region, although he did not elaborate.
In a news release, Iran's U.N. Mission said the nation rejected claims that it was responsible for the incidents. "Iran stands ready to play an active and constructive role in ensuring the security of strategic maritime passages as well as promoting peace, stability and security in the region," the statement said.
Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, meanwhile, said of the latest incident: "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.