U.S. and allied officials are planning a “collective response” to an alleged Iranian attack on an oil tanker that killed two civilians, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We've conducted a thorough review, and we're confident that Iran carried out this attack,” Blinken told reporters. “And there will be a collective response.”
Iranian officials have denied responsibility for the attack on Mercer Street, a tanker owned by a company based in London with ties to an Israeli billionaire. Iranian state media, by contrast, have carried reports suggesting the vessel was targeted in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike in Syria, where Iranian forces are fighting to preserve dictator Bashar Assad’s regime.
“With profound sadness, we understand the incident onboard the M/T Mercer Street on 29 July, 2021 has resulted in the deaths of two crew members onboard: a Romanian national and a UK national,” Zodiac Maritime, the London-based company that manages the tanker, announced Friday. “We are not aware of harm to any other personnel. Our primary concern remains the safety and wellbeing of everyone onboard and all those affected by the situation. Details of the incident are still being established and an investigation into the incident is currently underway.”
ISRAELIS PLAN MILITARY BUILDUP TO COUNTER ‘IRAN ARMING ITSELF WITH A NUCLEAR WEAPON’
Blinken’s announcement adds a threatening edge to the accusation lodged against Iran by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Romania on Sunday.
“Romania asks Iranian authorities to offer explanations right away and reserves the right to act accordingly, alongside its international partners, for an adequate response,” the Romanian Foreign Ministry said.
Israeli officials aren’t proposing to wait for a response from Tehran.
“This is the exact reason that we must act right now against Iran, which not only strives for a nuclear military [program] but also is leading to a dangerous arms race and the crumbling of stability in the Middle East,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the Israeli legislature on Monday. “In the past year, there have been no less than five Iranian attacks on international ships, some using UAVs manufactured by the Iranian military industry.”
The diplomatic conflagration comes at a time when “indirect” talks over the renewal of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal remain stalled, as hard-line Iranian jurist Ebrahim Raisi prepares to take over the presidency after being designated the winner of the latest election earlier this year.
“Iran, under the ‘hangman’ Raisi, who will take office this week, will be more dangerous to the world than it has been so far, more destructive to the region than it has been so far, and will strive to become an existential threat to Israel," Gantz continued.
Iran has denied the allegations, declaring it “illegal and unacceptable” to lodge such accusations. Now, the Mercer Street attack creates a new dispute between Iran and the U.K., despite London’s fundamental desire to keep the nuclear talks on track to rehabilitate the 2015 accord British officials regard as key to avoiding a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
“Israel, like many partners in the region, is threatened by this kind of activity. But clearly, each country needs to make its own considerations,” British deputy ambassador to Israel Mark Power said this week. “At this point, we call on our partners to condemn it, and we’re working with them to decide on an appropriate diplomatic response.”