The Israeli-linked oil tanker Mercer Street off Cape Town, South Africa in 2016 (Johan Victor/AP)
UPDATE, AUG 7:
Foreign Ministers of the G7 (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada) have declared that “all available evidence clearly points to Iran” over the drone attack on the tanker Mercer Street that killed British and Romanian nationals.
“This was a deliberate and targeted attack, and a clear violation of international law….There is no justification for this attack,” the ministers said in a statement on Friday.
At the UN, UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the evidence was “clear cut”:
The UK knows that Iran was responsible for this attack. We know it was deliberate and targeted….
The door for diplomacy and dialogue remains open. But if Iran chooses not to take that route, then we would seek to hold Iran to account and apply a cost to that.
The Security Council will discuss maritime security on Monday.
Iran’s Deputy Ambassador Zahra Ershadi denied any responsibility and warned, “Iran will not hesitate to defend itself and secure its national interests.”
But the US military said explosives experts have concluded that the attacking drones were made in Iran.
It said the experts assessed several pieces of a recovered drone, and they were almost identical to samples of Iranian attack UAVs.
The Americans suggested the attack may have launched from the Iranian coast.
UPDATE, AUG 3:
I spoke on Monday with Beverley O’Connor of Australia’s The World about the latest political situation around the attack on the tanker Mercer Street, including the blame of Iran by the US, UK, and Israel.
Let’s be honest here. This type of escalating conflict will unsettle the Iran nuclear talks, which were already in a period of difficulty.
UPDATE, 1200 GMT:
Romania, whose national was killed in Thursday’s drone attacks on the tanker Mercer Street, has joined the US, UK, and Israel in blaming Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry, while denying any responsibility, has stepped up its rhetoric. Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has promised retaliation over any “possible adventure” by Iran’s foes.
Iranian 1st Vice President Esh’aq Jahangiri has tried to shift attention to Israel and the US, blaming them for 12 attacks on Iran’s shipping since 2019.
“Trump and his team stood to prevent us from selling even one barrel of oil,” Jahangiri told a meeting of high-ranking Government staff. “They exploded or damaged 12 of our oil tankers. The Israelis stepped onto one of our oil tankers and exploded it.”
UPDATE, AUG 2:
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Sunday, “Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region.”
There is no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior. These actions threaten freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce, and the lives of those on the vessels involved.
We are working with our partners to consider our next steps and consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming.
UK Foreign Dominic Raab said London believes it is “highly likely” that Tehran is responsible for an attack which was “deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law”.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry continued to deny responsibility for Thursday’s drone strikes on the Israeli-linked Mercer Street.
Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh blamed the Israeli lobby in the US for the “childish” claims: “The illegitimate Zionist entity must stop leveling baseless charges against Iran.”
UPDATE, AUG 1:
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that Iran is behind Thursday’s attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, which killed two crew.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied any responsibility. Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, “We condemn these comments and accusations. Wherever this regime [Israel] has been, it’s taken violence and lack of security with it.”
However, on Friday, the State Arabic-language outlet Al-Alam cited official sources which claimed the attack. They said it was retaliation for Israeli strikes on an Assad regime military airport in Syria.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, JULY 31: Israel has blamed Iran for an attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, killing two crew.
The Mercer Street was travelling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates without cargo. The US navy reportedly escorted the stricken tanker to the Omani island of Masirah.
The dead were nationals of the UK and of Romania.
The Mercer Street is managed by Zodiac Maritime, part of the Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Another vessel linked to Ofer, the container ship CSAV Tyndall, suffered damage from an unexplained explosion in the Indian Ocean earlier this month.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he has contacted UK counterpart Dominic Raab. Lapid declared, “Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that harms us all. The world must not be silent in the face of Iranian terrorism that also harms freedom of shipping.”
Israel is suspected of carrying out “several dozen attacks” on Iranian ships transporting oil to Syria, inflicting “billions of dollars” in damage.
In the spring, a suspected drone strike on an Iran-linked oil tanker off the Syrian coast killed three people. In April, the MV Saviz, a cargo ship and suspected base for the Revolutionary Guards, was struck in the Red Sea off Yemen. In June, one of the largest ships in the Iranian navy sank near Oman after its engine room mysteriously caught fire.
Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents in Yemen have attacked targets with drone swarms. In May 2019, half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production capacity was curbed for several weeks after an assault on the Kingdom’s main facility.