US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday vowed a “collective response” to Iran, which had earlier in the day warned adversaries against reprisals after it was blamed for an attack on an Israeli-linked tanker.
“We are in very close contact, in coordination, with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries. And there will be a collective response,” Blinken told reporters at a press appearance at the State Department.
He repeated that the United States had concluded that Iran was behind the drone attack off the coast of Oman on the MT Mercer Street, which is managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.
A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed.
Blinken called the incident a “direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce,” but played down suggestions that it showed a hardening under Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative who is set to be sworn in as Iranian president on Tuesday.
“We have seen a series of actions taken by Iran over many months, including against shipping, so I’m not sure that this particular action is anything new or augurs anything one way or another for the new government,” Blinken said.
“But what it does say is that Iran continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued his own condemnation of the drone attack.
“I think that Iran should face up to the consequences of what they’ve done,” he told the BBC. “This was clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping… it is absolutely vital that Iran and every other country respects the freedom of navigation around the world.”
So far, Thursday’s drone attack was blamed on Iran by Israel, the US, the UK and Romania.
On Monday evening, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel must act immediately against Tehran over the drone strike.
“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 said, referring to the incoming Iranian president, accused of taking part in the mass killings of prisoners toward the end of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.
The Mercer Street is a Japanese-owned tanker flying a Liberian flag and with a foreign crew. Its only ties to Israel are that it is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Ofer.
Still, Israel believes that is precisely the reason it was hit, and views the attack as one that targeted its interests.
The recent attack marked the first known fatal attack after years of assaults on commercial shipping in the region linked to tensions between Israel and Iran over the tattered nuclear deal.