Iran on Sunday issued a formal denial that it was behind the major Thursday night drone attack on the Mercer Street oil tanker off Oman that was managed by an Israeli firm which left two crew members dead. But both the United States and Israel on the same day charged that Tehran was without doubt behind the attack, which the US Navy previously said involved multiple explosive drones targeting the vessel in the Arabian Sea. Iran's PressTV subsequently responded on Monday by vowing a "strong and crushing" military response to any hostile moves against the country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had warned that an "appropriate response" is coming: "There is no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior," he said. "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."
Mercer Street attack aftermath
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett struck an even more ominous tone in terms of a warning and threat. He first laid out that Israeli intelligence has determined Iran to be "unequivocally" responsible for the attack, and then said, "We expect the international community to clarify to the Iranian regime that it made a terrible mistake. We have our ways of getting the message to Iran."
His address to a cabinet meeting on Sunday also included: "I say absolutely that Iran is the one that carried out the attack against the ship." Bennett added: "The thuggish behavior of Iran is dangerous not only to Israel but also to the global interest in freedom of shipping and international trade."
Iran's response to the accusations and increasingly bellicose warnings was to denounce them as "false", with a Foreign Ministry statement countering, "This is not the first time that the Zionist regime has made such accusations against Iran. This regime has taken violence and insecurity with it wherever it has gone." This despite a Friday Iranian state media report that asserted the Islamic Republic had "retaliated" for prior Israeli airstrikes inside Syria.
The UK is also backing the US-Israeli version of events, with a weekend joint US-UK statement saying the following:
"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."
A number of fresh headlines are now underscoring that the 'tanker wars' are back and in full force, with industry analysts at Dryad Global describing that "this latest attack has the hallmarks of the ongoing Israel/Iran 'shadow war'".
Likely something big is coming in terms of a major escalation in the next days...
The Israelis have further taken the incident to the Untied Nations, urging collective action, likely also as part of efforts to halt nuclear negotiations in Vienna, which are already stalled at least into August.
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