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UK seeks retaliation against Iran after Israeli tanker strike

27th Aug 2021
UK seeks retaliation against Iran after Israeli tanker strike

(Map Flickr Commons)

Hamed Chapman

British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, says he is seeking support for action against Iran following the latest flare-up in what is being described as a ‘shadow war’ between Israel and Iran after two people were killed in a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman.

“We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran. UK assessments have concluded that it is highly likely that Iran attacked the MV Mercer Street in international waters,” Raab said.

“Iran must end such attacks, and vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law. The UK is working with our international partners on a concerted response to this unacceptable attack,” he said.

The tanker is operated by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime based in London, and the warning comes after Israel’s new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, blamed Iran for the drone attack and threatened to “send a message” in retaliation.

But the Iranian Ambassador in London, Mohsen Baharvand, cautioned against hasty and unsubstantiated accusations and said there had already been 11 Israeli attacks on Iranian cargo vessels so far this year.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Israeli attacks made public have included on the container ship Shahr E Kord, intelligence cargo ship Saviz and tanker Wisdom. Israeli sabotage is also suspected of the sinking of Iran’s largest navy ship, the Kharg, in June.

At a briefing, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the attack on the Mercer Street was “unacceptable and was an outrageous attack on commercial shipping in which a British national died. It’s vital Iran, and every country respects the freedom of navigation, and the UK will continue to insist on that.”

But as to why the Prime Minister had not similarly condemned more than a dozen Israeli attacks on Iranian oil tankers in the past two years, the Spokesman could only say he was “not aware” of any such incidents.

He suggested that journalists “should ask the Foreign and Development Office” when challenged if Israel respected commercial navigation too when it was pointed out that the Israeli media, as well as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, have reported such attacks on Iranian oil tankers.

Britain’s partisan approach was also underlined by the Chief of the Defense Staff, General Nick Carter, the country’s top military commander, who warned that western powers need to retaliate, otherwise Tehran would feel emboldened. “What we need to be doing, fundamentally, is calling out Iran for its very reckless behaviour,” he told the BBC.

The latest flare-up came just ahead of the inauguration of Iran’s new President, Ebrahim Raisi, and as the US has been seen dragging out re-joining the international nuclear deal with Iran which Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from during his time in office which Israel had supported.

The Daily Mail reported that the British Government was initially reluctant to apportion blame for the latest attack until it came under criticism, with the right-wing The Henry Jackson Society accusing

“naïve” and “stupid” UK officials of “ignoring Iran’s malfeasances for too long”.
Joining with the US, G7 Foreign Ministers and the High Representative of the European Union issued a collective statement saying they “stand united in our commitment to maritime security and the protection of commercial shipping.”

“We condemn the unlawful attack committed on a merchant’s vessel off the coast of Oman on 29 July, which killed a British and a Romanian national. This was a deliberate and targeted attack and a clear violation of international law. All available evidence clearly points to Iran.

There is no justification for this attack,” the statement said. But rather than demanding retaliatory measures, it called on Iran to “stop all activities inconsistent with relevant UN Security Council resolutions” and on “all parties to play a constructive role in fostering regional stability and peace.”

With regard to evidence about the latest attack, an investigation by the US Department of Defense was eventually reported to have found that the drone which blasted a hole in the vessel’s bridge, killing two crewmen, was made in Iran.

In a statement, the Pentagon’s Central Command said that an investigative team was sent to inspect the vessel from the USS Ronald Reagan supercarrier and found the UAV, used by Iran and its ‘proxies’ in the region, was “loaded with a military-grade explosive”.

Additional report by Ahmed J Versi

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