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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

Pelosi announces bid for re-election ahead of 2022 midterms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her bid for re-election Tuesday, amid a deluge of other safe-seat Democrats announcing their retirements.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s announcement follows months of speculation — despite her denials — that she was preparing to leave Congress.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.

Biden: There won't be "American forces moving into Ukraine"

President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he does not foresee U.S. troops moving into Ukraine.

Why it matters: Biden's comments come as tensions between Russia and Ukraine persist, and a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears increasingly likely.

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