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."
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.
First photos of the Mercer Street following the Iranian drone attack https://t.co/DAaNF3m4RV— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) August 2, 2021
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...
BREAKING: Netanyahu says the Biden administration could leak information about planned Israeli operations against Iran to the international media in order to prevent it and therefore Israel shouldn't agree to a "no surprises" policy regarding Iran with the U.S.— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 2, 2021
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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Since the days of the Shah the United States has been playing Iran against Saudi Arabia by presenting Iran as a threat to Saudi Arabia in order to con the Saudis to pay protection money in the form of arms deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
When the Houthis, Iran’s allies in Yemen attacked and destroyed a major oil pumping and processing station ‘Abqaiq’ on 15 September 2019 leading to a loss of 50% of Saudi oil production, the United States who accused Iran immediately of the attack and promised a retaliatory response did nothing except to station some troops which the Saudis paid for their deployment. Contrast this with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warning Iran today that an “appropriate response is coming”. He also said that there is no justification for this attack.
This begs the question as to whether there was a justification for Israeli attacks on Iranian oil tankers bringing badly needed crude oil for Syria. If not for the United States occupying unlawfully Syrian oil fields in the eastern Deir ez-Zor region and also imposing sanctions on the supply of oil to Syria, Iranian tankers wouldn’t have needed to bring crude supplies to Syria. And, yet, the US kept mum about the Israel attacks on the Iranian tankers.
Banish the thought but isn’t it also possible that the United States might have been behind the attack on the tanker to exert pressure on Iran under the threat of military retaliation to bring it back to the negotiating table. A week ago the United States was threatening more sanctions on Iran and on China to disrupt China’s growing imports of Iranian crude. But since China doesn’t give a toss about US threats and can easily retaliate against them, then a new way of bringing Iran to the negotiation table must be found, hence the attack on the tanker. Just a thought.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
Romania?! What, is Micronesia on hiatus from jumping whenever the above mentioned command and need for some diplomatic heft? SMH...