Iran Warns It Will Respond 'Immediately and Strongly' to Any Provocation in Wake of Tanker Attack
10:46 GMT 02.08.2021 (Updated: 15:13 GMT 02.08.2021)
© Photo : Twitter / OrHellerUnconfirmed image of the Mercer Street tanker provided by Or Heller, correspondent for Israel's Channel 10 News
© Photo : Twitter / OrHeller
On Sunday, Israeli media reported that Tel Aviv had received a "green light" from the US and the UK to 'respond' to the alleged Iranian attack on the Mercer Street oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran forcefully denied any involvement and accused Israel of influencing the US position on the matter via a powerful 'Zionist lobby'.
US and British claims of an alleged Iranian trace in the recent attack on oil tanker Mercer Street, managed by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, are "baseless" and "provocative," and Tehran will respond "immediately and strongly" to any provocations against Iranian interests, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has said.
Speaking to Iranian media on Monday, Khatibzadeh accused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of repeating false claims by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about alleged Iranian involvement in the 29 July attack on the Mercer Street tanker, and said both men's statement contained "contradictory, false and provocative accusations."
Iran "deeply regrets" and "strongly condemns" both countries over the allegations, the spokesman added.
Khatibzadeh stressed that Iran is a defender and supporter of the safety of shipping in the Gulf and in all international waters, and that the Islamic Republic, as the country with the largest maritime border with the Gulf, and is always prepared to cooperate in ensuring maritime security with other countries in the region. The spokesman also reiterated that Tehran abhores the interventions of non-regional powers in the Gulf, saying their presence is detrimental to stability and security.
"It is unfortuante that while these countries have remained silent in the face of terrorist attacks and sabotage of Iranian merchant ships in the Red Sea and international waters, they have made false accusations against the Islamic Republic in a clear [sign of] political bias," the official added.
Khatibzadeh emphasized that if the UK and the US have any actual proof of Iranian involvement in the Mercer Street attack, they must provide this evidence immediately.
Later Monday, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Sputnik that there was no indication of Iranian involvement in the Mercer Street tanker attack, and said that no evidence has been presented to that effect.
One Romanian and one British national were killed Thursday after the Mercer Street tanker on route from Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates with no cargo onboard was struck off the coast of Oman, about 300 km southeast of Muscat. The oil freighter is Liberian-flagged, and managed by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company owned by Israeli oligarch Eyal Ofer.
The US Navy claimed that the vessel was struck by a suicide drone. A US warship responded to the tanker's distress signal after it was hit and US personnel boarded the vessel "to ensure there is no additional danger" and 'assist' in any investigation. Israel almost immediately blamed Iran for the attack, calling Tehran a "global problem" and threatening a response. On Saturday, Israeli media reported that Tel Aviv had shared intelligence with London and Washington on Iran's supposed role in the attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the international community to "make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a serious mistake," and warned that Tel Aviv "know[s] how to send a message to Iran in our own way."
Iran vocally denied claims of involvement in the tanker attack, calling the allegations against it "childish" and accusing officials in the US of being influenced by the powerful 'Zionist lobby' in that country.
"We must be very cautious not to fall into traps set by the Zionists...in such cases. This regime is at the lowest point of legitimacy and is experiencing the most difficult days of its life," Khatibzadeh said in comments on Sunday. He went on to accuse Tel Aviv of spreading insecurity, violence, terror and war wherever it operates.
The Mercer Street allegations are just the latest in a long-running secret war between Iran and Israel against one another's commercial shipping. In March, US media reported that Israel had targeted at least a dozen Iranian cargo ships attempting to deliver oil to the war-torn nation of Syria over a two year period. Haaretz estimated that these attacks caused damage running into the "billions of dollars." In recent months, Israel has also accused Iran of targeting its ships.