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Iranian flags in February 2019 at the Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar, on the Gulf of Oman. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accused Iran of being responsible for attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and a string of other incidents, saying the regime was engaged in "an unacceptable campaign of escalating tensions."

Why it matters: Fears that the U.S. was on course for war with Iran had been reduced in recent days, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveling to Tehran on a Trump-endorsed mission to reduce tensions. But Pompeo's tone was hawkish today in declaring Iran "a clear threat to international peace and security."

  • Pompeo did not present any evidence that Iran was responsible, but said that the U.S. would raise the attacks at the UN Security Council today.
  • Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, denied responsibility for the attacks and said the timing was ""suspicious." Meanwhile Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, told Abe that Iran would not engage in negotiations with President Trump.

Pompeo said Iran was attempting to follow through on its threat to "disrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz," and was "lashing out" in the face of the Trump administration's "successful maximum pressure campaign."

  • Between the lines: “If Iran was behind it, it is very clear the maximum pressure policy of the Trump administration is rendering Iran more aggressive, not less," Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group told the Washington Post.

A U.S. defense official had previously said it was "highly likely" that Iran caused Thursday's attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, CBS reported.

Catch up quick: Japan’s Trade Ministry said the oil tankers had "Japan-related cargo." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrapped up a high-stakes visit in Iran on Thursday, which sought to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington, the AP reports.

Go deeper: U.S. Navy assists 2 oil tankers in Oman Sea after reports of explosion

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

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