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Iran warns it will respond to any action over deadly tanker attack

Tehran dismisses UK, US comments linking it to drone strike; Britain summons Iranian ambassador over incident

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran on Monday vowed to respond to any “adventurism” after the US and Britain joined Israel in blaming Tehran for a deadly tanker attack, claims it denies.

Iran “will not hesitate to protect its security and national interests, and will immediately and decisively respond to any possible adventurism,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.

He dismissed US and Britain’s allegations as “contradictory,” and said that “if they have any evidence to support their baseless claims they should provide them.”

The MT Mercer Street, managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was attacked on Thursday off Oman.

A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in what the United States, Britain, and the vessel’s operator Zodiac Maritime said appeared to be a drone strike.

Israel blamed Iran for the attack, accusations rejected by Tehran.

Khatibzadeh said Sunday that Israel “must stop such baseless accusations.”

The US and Britain followed Israel in blaming Iran for the attack, with Washington vowing an “appropriate response.”

Khatibzadeh on Monday accused the US and UK of effectively supporting “terrorist attacks against and sabotage of Iran’s commercial ships” through their “silence.”

Britain summoned Iran’s ambassador to London in response to the tanker attack.

“The Iranian ambassador to the UK, Mohsen Baharvand, was summoned today to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office… in response to the unlawful attack committed on MV Mercer Street on 29 July,” said a Monday British government statement.

“Iran must immediately cease actions that risk international peace and security,” it added, saying that “vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that Britain “believes the attack… was carried out by Iran and was deliberate, targeted and unlawful.”

Romania as well pinned responsibility on Iran for the drone attack that killed one of its citizens.

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

“There is no justification whatsoever for deliberately attacking civilians. We continue to coordinate with our partners for an appropriate response,” Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said in a statement on Monday.

The Iranian ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Bucharest, according to Romania’s national news agency.

US Navy forces came to the aid of the crew in response to an emergency distress call and saw evidence of the attack, said a US military statement.

Analysts said the attack bore all the hallmarks of tit-for-tat exchanges in the “shadow war” between Israel and Iran, in which vessels linked to each nation have been targeted in waters around the Gulf.

The MT Mercer Street was in the northern Indian Ocean, traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates with no cargo on board when the attack occurred.

Iran’s state TV channel in Arabic Al-Alam, citing “informed regional sources,” said the attack was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” targeting an airport in central Syria. It did not provide further details.

In this photo provided by the US Navy, sailors assigned to an explosive ordnance unit board an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to head to an oil tanker that was attacked off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea on July 30, 2021 (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Quinton A. Lee/U.S. Navy, via AP)

There have been several recent reported attacks on Iranian ships that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Monday that over a dozen Iranian tankers had been damaged by US and Israeli bomb attacks during the time Donald Trump was serving as US president.

“Trump and his team stood to prevent us from selling even one barrel of oil,” Jahangiri said, according to the Iranian Fars news agency. “They exploded or damaged 12 of our oil tankers. The Israelis stepped onto one of our oil tankers and exploded it.”

In March, Iran said it was “considering all options” after an attack on a cargo ship in the Mediterranean that it blamed on Israel.

In April, Tehran said its freighter Saviz was hit by an “explosion” in the Red Sea, after media reports said Israel had targeted the ship. The New York Times reported at the time that it was an Israeli “retaliatory” attack, after “Iran’s earlier strikes on Israeli ships.”

Iran has also accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear sites and killing a number of its nuclear scientists.

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