In what was a clearly coordinated move, the United States and the United Kingdom on Sunday condemned the Thursday attack on an Israeli-managed tanker in the Arabian Sea and blamed Iran for the fatal act, in which two crewmembers died.
A statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region.”
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also issued a similarly worded statement on Sunday saying, “UK assessments have concluded that it is highly likely that Iran attacked the MV MERCER STREET in international waters off Oman using one or more Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”
Earlier on Sunday Iran had denied any role in the attack, blaming Israel for instability in the region.
On Friday Israel had blamed Iran, and an unnamed Israeli official had said there is intelligence that would be shared with Washington. Also, US Navy explosive experts boarded the tanker, MV Mercer Street, and conducted their own investigation. Information obtained might include remains of the UAVs, that could prove Iran was responsible.
Expressing condemnation and condolences to a Romanian and a British citizen who died in the attack, Raab said, “We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran.”
Both the US and the UK statements said that the two allies are working with partners to consider next steps and consulting with government in the region and beyond on an appropriate response.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday said that Iran has made a bad miscalculations by attacking the vessel, as Israeli had vowed on Friday to take the case to the United Nations.
“We, in any case, have our own way to relay the message to Iran,” Bennett said. Israel’s foreign minister said earlier the incident deserved a harsh response.
The incident comes at a sensitive diplomatic time, when the US, UK, France and Germany, together with Russia and China have negotiated with Iran since April to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, abandoned by former president Donald Trump in 2018.
Although the talks have stalled pending an Iranian decision to wait until its new president Ebrahim Raisi takes office, but the attack on the tanker and statements blaming Iran would complicate the situation.
Iranian officials have said in recent days that Washington has demanded guarantees of further talks about Iran’s missiles and regional policies if agreement is reached on the nuclear issue.
In another development, the chief of Israel’s armed forces spoke with his British counterpart on Sunday, the Israeli military said. Lieutenant-General Aviv Kohavi and Britain’s Staff General Nick Carter “discussed recent events in the region and common challenges faced by both countries,” said an Israeli military statement, which did not elaborate nor specifically cite the MV Mercer Street incident.