image Photo: Reuters

Israel, US blame Iran for ship attack

An Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, drone) hit the Israeli-owned MV Pacific Zircon oil tanker on Tuesday, say officials.

By Erin Viner

The Liberian-flagged commercial tanker is managed by the Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping firm, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.

“This unmanned aerial vehicle attack against a civilian vessel in this critical maritime strait demonstrates, once again, the destabilizing nature of Iranian malign activity in the region,” said CENTCOM Commander General Michael “Erik” Kurilla.

In the statement issued late last night, theUnited States Central Command (CENTCOM) said debris of the weapon “reveals that it was a Shahed-series one-way attack drone” that hit the vessel, confirming it as Iranian-made.

A multilateral operation responded to the scene, including the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans, a patrol coastal ship and patrol craft led by the British Royal Navy’s HMS Lancaster, said CENTCOM.

Jerusalem officials also accused the Islamic Republic of launching the strike, specifying that it was carried out with a a Shahed-136 “suicide” or “kamikaze” UAV-type.

The Eastern Pacific Shipping company said that the ship had been hit some 240 km (150 miles) offshore Oman. There were no reported injuries to crew or spillage of the cargo, although minor damage was sustained to the hull.

“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran likely conducted this attack using a UAV, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing directly and via its proxies throughout the Middle East and proliferating to Russia for use in Ukraine,” concurred White House National Security Advisr Jake Sullivan in a statement.

While the Ayatollah regime has yet to acknowledge the attack, the Iran’s Nour News outlet – affiliated with the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), paradoxically blamed Israel for the attack.

Israel and Iran have been engaged in a “shadow war” over the past several years, including several maritime incidents.

Two Israeli-owned cargo ships were sabotaged by the Islamic Republic last year. The MT LORI was hit by a missile in the Arabian Sea on 25 March, just one month after the MV Helios Ray was hit by a blast above the water line possibly caused by limpet mines while sailing in the Gulf of Oman overnight 25-26 February. There were no casualties in either attack.

The Ayatollah regime in Tehran alleged that Israel was highly likely to have been behind an attack on the Iranian Shahr e Kord container ship in the Mediterranean, also in March 2021.

Later that year on 29 July, Tehran launched deadly attack that killed 2 British and Romanian crew members aboard the Liberian-flagged Mercer Street petroleum product tanker, which is Japanese-owned and managed by the Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime firm. The explosion occurred as the vessel was traveling through a key oil shipping route near the mouth of the Gulf off the coast of Oman. The United States military said explosives experts from the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier – which was deployed to assist the Mercer Street – concluded the blast was caused by a UAC manufactured in Iran.

The Foreign Ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy economies said at the time that Iran was threatening international peace and security and that all available evidence showed it was behind an attack on the Mercer Street tanker.

“All available evidence clearly points to Iran. There is no justification for this attack,” said the statement, issued by current G7 chair, Britain.

The United Kingdom also raised the issue at a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

The US also blamed Iran for a series of attacks occurring off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019. Tehran at the time had begun escalating its nuclear programme following the unilateral US withdrawal from Iran’s atomic deal with world powers.

Iran has denied all accusations of responsibly for any of the attacks.