The United States and the United Kingdom joined Israel on Sunday with accusations against Iran, of the Thursday drone strike that killed two people off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea. The joining has put further pressure on Tehran as it has denied any involvement.
In separate statements on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, both said they believe Iran was behind the deadly attack. Israel was the first country accusing Tehran of the deadly attack the vessel Mercer Street, that occurred on July 29, but Iran has continually denied involvement.
“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAV’s, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region,” Blinken said. “There was no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior,” he added.
Raab said in his statement, “It was highly likely Iran attacked the tanker with one or more drones. We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted and a clear violation of international law by Iran. Iran must end such attacks, and vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett went further than Blinken and Raab in his remarks Sunday at a Cabinet meeting, making a point to stare directly into the camera and slowly warn: “We know, at any rate, know how to convey the message to Iran in our own way.”
Bennett also said, “Iran is the one who carried out the attack against the ship. Iran’s aggressive behavior is dangerous not only for Israel, but harms global interests in the freedom of navigation and international trade.”
Earlier, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, “The allegation Iran carried out the attack is baseless. It’s not the first time that the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem has made such empty accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Wherever this regime has gone, it has taken instability, terror and violence with it.” He added: “Whoever sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”
Khatibzadeh spoke around an hour after Iran’s outgoing president acknowledged that his government at times “did not tell part of the truth” to the public during his term.
The strikes on the Mercer Street marked the first-known fatal attack after years of assaults on commercial shipping in the region linked to tensions with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal. Two strikes were aimed at the tanker The first attack did not cause damage to the vessel, but the second strike affected the ship’s crew rooms. One Romanian national and one British national died from the strike.
The Mercer Street, owned by Japan’s Taihei Kaiun Co., is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.
Secretary of State Blinken said, “The U.S. will consult with governments within the region to develop an appropriate response, noting that it will be forthcoming.”