The United States destroyed two Iranian offshore oil platforms in the central Persian Gulf today in retaliation for a missile attack on a U.S.-flagged tanker, U.S. officials announced.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said gunfire from four U.S. destroyers blasted “the two platforms at one location. They both collapsed.”
Iran confirmed the attack and vowed “a crushing response.”
Gulf-based marine salvage executives said Iranian tugboats were seen rushing to the Sassan and Rostam platforms, 30 miles apart, east of the Qatar peninsula and 60 and 75 miles south of the Iranian coast.
U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said the attack was confined to the Rostam platforms. However, shipping sources in the Persian Gulf and Iranian radio said the Sassan platform 30 miles away also had been attacked. They said the platforms were ablaze.
In Washington, the Pentagon said that no Americans were injured in the attack and that most of the 20 to 30 Iranians on the Rostam platforms abandoned them after being warned an attack was imminent.
The oil platforms, like other Iranian facilities in the gulf, are used as bases for Iranian helicopters and speedboats that attack neutral commercial shipping as part of the 7-year-old Iran-Iraq War.
Radio monitors said they heard an Iranian voice saying, “U.S. warship, U.S. warship, let me evacuate the injured before you shoot again.”
Reprisal for Missile Attack
Today’s attack was in reprisal for Friday’s missile attack that injured 18 people on the U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tanker Sea Isle City. The attack, which involved Chinese-made Silkworm missiles, was launched from the Faw peninsula, more than 300 miles north of the Rostam platforms.
In a statement, President Reagan said the attack was “a prudent yet restrained response to this unlawful use of force against the United States and to numerous violations to the rights of other non-belligerents.”
He described the one-time oil drilling facility as “a military platform” and said it had been “used to assist in a number of attacks on non-belligerent shipping.”
Weinberger told reporters in Washington: “We do not seek further confrontation with Iran but will be prepared to meet any further military escalation by Iran with stronger retaliation.”
Another Platform Boarded
Later, the Pentagon said Navy SEAL commandos boarded another Iranian sea platform in the gulf after it had been abandoned by Iranian personnel and destroyed some radar and communications gear before departing.
Spokesman Fred Hoffman said the platform was situated about five nautical miles from the scene of the earlier attack by U.S. forces on two other platforms.
The third platform had not been selected as a target for U.S. naval gunfire, Hoffman said. But shortly after four Navy destroyers bombarded the first two targets, “it was noticed that boats were taking people off another platform,” he said.
“After this platform was abandoned, U.S. Navy men went aboard, looked around, destroyed some radar and communications equipment and then left,” he added.