UK Reportedly Considering 'Range of Options' Including Cyberattack Against Iran Over Tanker Strike
© JOHAN VICTORThe Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime that was attacked off Oman coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, January 2, 2016 in this picture obtained from ship tracker website, MarineTraffic.com. Picture taken January 2, 2016. Johan Victor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
© JOHAN VICTOR
The Japanese-owned vessel Mercer Street, managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, owned in turn by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was struck by a drone off the coast of Oman on 29 July. One Romanian and one British national were killed. Israel, the UK and US accused Iran of being behind the attack, with Tehran rejecting the "baseless" accusations.
The UK government is reportedly considering a “range of options” against Iran, which has been blamed for the drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed a British security guard, according to The Sun.
A cyberattack would be most likely, according to “a senior defence source” cited by the outlet, who added:
“Nobody will see it here but they will be left in no doubt you cannot kill a Brit unchecked.”
“A British national was killed and we have to make clear there are certain lines that can't be crossed,” the outlet cited a “Foreign Office insider” as saying.
On Monday night, a Special Forces team reportedly flew out to join the tanker and take charge of the investigation into the incident, with a source saying there was belief the British national had not been deliberately targeted.
British military commanders are purportedly working on plans for a strike against an Iran-backed “terror team”, according to The Mirror. The outlet reported that Israeli intelligence had located the area from which they suspected the drone attack targeting the oil tanker had been carried out.
© REUTERS / JOHAN VICTORThe Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime that was attacked off Oman coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, December 31, 2015 in this picture obtained from ship tracker website, MarineTraffic.com. Picture taken December 31, 2015. Johan Victor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
The Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime that was attacked off Oman coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, December 31, 2015 in this picture obtained from ship tracker website, MarineTraffic.com. Picture taken December 31, 2015. Johan Victor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
© REUTERS / JOHAN VICTOR
It added that UK special forces in the region had been reinforced ahead of a “kill or capture mission”.
“This has reached [a] tipping point where Iran's actions can no longer be allowed to continue,” a “former British military intelligence officer” was cited as saying. The source added:
“British special forces have been concerned about hostage taking on the high seas for some time but are clearly going to take a more aggressive posture against Iran's proxies.”
UK Slams ‘Outrageous Attack’
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the Iranian government should accept responsibility for the suspected drone strike and called on Tehran to “respect freedoms of navigation”.
“I think that Iran should face up to the consequences of what they have done, accept the attribution that the Foreign Secretary has made. This was clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping, a UK national died,” said Johnson.
The attack on MV Mercer Street, managed by a London-based company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was slammed as “unlawful and callous” by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who added that the UK and its allies planned a coordinated response.
“UK assessments have concluded that it is highly likely that Iran attacked the MV Mercer Street in international waters off Oman on July 29 using one or more unmanned aerial vehicles ... The UK is working with our international partners on a concerted response to this unacceptable attack,” Raab said on Sunday.
Iran's ambassador to the UK Mohsen Baharvand was summoned to the UK Foreign Office by Middle East minister James Cleverly on Monday. Cleverly told the Iranian diplomat Tehran must “immediately cease actions that risk international peace and security”.
“Such blame games are nothing new. Those who are responsible for this [attack] are the ones who made it possible for the Israeli regime to set its foot in this region. Iran has no hesitation in protecting its security and national interests and will respond promptly and strongly to any possible adventure,” a spokesman for Iran was cited as saying.
Deadly Drone Attack
The 28,400-ton Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged petroleum products tanker managed by the Israeli-owned shipping company Zodiac Maritime, with no cargo on board, was sailing from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
The crew reportedly heard the noise of a flying drone believed to have been packed with explosives that detonated on impact, with a hole blasted in the top of the vessel.
Two US warships subsequently escorted the tanker to port. Four British citizens were understood to be on board at the time of the strike, according to media reports. A Romanian sailor was also killed in the incident.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Tehran of being involved in the strike.
"Iran is the one who carried out the attack against the ship. Iran’s aggressive behaviour is dangerous not only for Israel, but harms global interests in the freedom of navigation and international trade,” he said.
On Saturday, Israel reportedly shared intelligence with the UK and US proving Iran's alleged role in the attack. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken subsequently echoed the stance of the Israeli Prime Minister, making similar statements accusing Iran of culpability.