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Erdan calls on Security Council to condemn, sanction Iran over strike on tanker

Envoy says members of top UN body must recognize destabilizing role IRGC playing in region, calls last week’s attack ‘another instance of maritime terrorism’ by Islamic Republic

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks at the UN in New York in January 2021. (Shahar Azran/ Israeli Mission to the UN)
Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks at the UN in New York in January 2021. (Shahar Azran/ Israeli Mission to the UN)

NEW YORK — Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on Tuesday called on the Security Council to condemn and sanction Iran in the wake of last week’s deadly drone attack on a ship with ties to Israel off the coast of Oman.

“The Security Council should not sit idly by in the face of such violations by Iran or by the terrorist organizations throughout the region that serve as its proxies,” Erdan wrote in a letter to Security Council President T. S. Tirumurti of India.

The drone attack last Thursday targeted the MT Mercer Street, a tanker managed by a UK-based company owned by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed when drones slammed into the vessel off the coast of Oman. Israel, the US, the UK and Romania have all pegged Iran as responsible

“I call upon the Security Council to address this string of attacks with great urgency and unequivocally condemn and sanction Iran for these malign activities,” Erdan said. “The Security Council must take all necessary measures to hold the Iranian regime fully accountable for its repeated and unrestrained gross violations of international law.”

The UN envoy said the attack “is yet another instance of maritime terrorism” by Tehran and follows a string of attacks, which Erdan has urged the top UN body to condemn.

The attack on the MT Mercer Street is another opportunity for Security Council members to identify the “pivotal role the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has played in sowing violence and destruction in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world,” Erdan said.

Tug boats are moored next to the Israeli-managed tanker MT Mercer Street, off the Fujayrah port in the United Arab Emirates, on August 3, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

The ambassador said Iran’s action “threaten the safety of international shipping and navigation and disrupt international trade, to further destabilize a highly volatile region.”

Erdan’s letter was sent as another security incident affecting shipping was underway in the region.

At least six ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates broadcast warnings Tuesday that they had lost control of their steering under unclear circumstances as British authorities reported “a potential hijack” was underway in the area.

It wasn’t immediately clear what was happening off the coast of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel will no longer allow the Islamic Republic to “sit calmly in Tehran while igniting the entire Middle East — that’s over.”

“We are working to enlist the whole world, but when the time comes, we know how to act alone,” the premier said while touring Israel’s northern border with top military officials. “Iran knows the price that we’ll exact when anyone threatens our security.”

Hebrew media reported that Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will hold a briefing on Wednesday for UN Security Council representatives during which they will present them with intelligence information showing Iran’s responsibility for the attack.

Israel, Britain, and the US were expected to seek a motion in the Security Council condemning Iran for the attack, the Ynet website reported.

Tuesday also saw the NATO alliance warn Iran over the attack while the European Union rejected the incident as “unacceptable,” though it also said that the circumstances are not yet clear.

This Jan. 2, 2016 photo shows the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street off Cape Town, South Africa (Johan Victor via AP)

The Mercer Street is a Japanese-owned tanker flying a Liberian flag 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.

Also on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued his own condemnation.

“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.”

Later that day Gantz said Israel must act immediately against Tehran over the drone strike.

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