Does Iran believe it can attack Israeli ships, and no one will notice? Not this time. An explosive incident on the Israeli-owned Motor Tanker (MT) Mercer Street off the coast of Oman caused the deaths of the Romanian ship’s master and a British security guard. When a similar attack by Iran on the MT Lori occurred in March, Liberty Nation reported that such assaults on Israeli merchant vessels would bring retaliation from the Israeli government. According to BBC News, MT Mercer Street is a London-based Zodiac Maritime company owned by Israeli shipping mogul Eyal Ofer.
Recent analysis by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) leaves little doubt that the July 30 drone blast on the merchant ship in international waters was the work of Iran. Sam LaGrone, writing in USNI News, explained:
“A one-way, explosive-laden drone made in Iran attacked an Israeli-operated merchant tanker last week off the coast of Oman, U.S. Central Command said … The delta-wing drone, similar in design to long-range unidentified, unmanned ‘kamikaze’ drones developed for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, flew into the pilothouse of the Merchant tanker Mercer Street on July 30, killing two crew members, according to a report from CENTCOM.”
Additionally, a recent CENTCOM press release described the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that caused the fatal explosion, ripping through the pilothouse, and a detailed analysis of the damaged vessel by a U.S. Navy expert explosive investigative team from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. CENTCOM’s spokesman U.S. Navy Captain Bill Urban said that the team found the following:
- “The MT Mercer Street was targeted by two unsuccessful explosive UAV attacks on the evening of July 29. The crew reported the attacks via distress calls.”
- “The investigative team determined that the extensive damage to the Mercer Street, documented in the attached slide, was the result of a third UAV attack on July 30. This UAV was loaded with a military-grade explosive and caused the death of two crewmembers.”
- “The explosive detonation following the UAV impact created an approximately 6-foot diameter hole in the top side of the pilothouse and badly damaged the interior. Explosive chemical tests were indicative of a Nitrate-based explosive and identified as RDX, indicating the UAV had been rigged to cause injury and destruction.”
- “Explosives experts were able to recover several pieces of this third UAV, including a vertical stabilizer (part of the wing) and internal components which were nearly identical to previously collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs.”
- “U.K. explosive experts were provided access to the evidence at the Fifth Fleet headquarters. Evidence was shared virtually with Israeli explosive experts. Both partners concurred with the U.S. findings.”
The photograph by CENTCOM released to the public shows the area of the pilothouse that sustained the Iranian UAV hit, including debris from the resulting explosion.
CENTCOM has also released numerous photographs of Iranian delta wing drones, like the ones identified as Shahid-136 UAVs, believed to have been used in attacking the Liberian-registered tanker MT Mercer Street on its way from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Fujairah, UAE.
The international community was quick to register its displeasure at the unprovoked Tehran-launched deadly drone strike. The Associated Press reported that the United States and G7 nations Canada, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy, and France blamed Iran for the attack and expressed international outrage at the incident. The Associated Press said:
“’We condemn the unlawful attack committed on a merchant vessel,’ the foreign ministers said in a joint statement. ‘This was a deliberate and targeted attack and a clear violation of international law. All available evidence clearly points to Iran. There is no justification for this attack.’”
Though Iran has denied any involvement in the drone strike, all the evidence suggests the contrary. In an interview with reporters, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Zahra Ershadi, “categorically” asserted that Iran had nothing to do with the deadly UAV strike. As is Iran’s habit when caught red-handed, Ershadi accused Israel of using the drone attack as a means to “divert world opinion from its ‘crimes and inhumane practices in the region.’”
The Iranian drone strike comes less than three months after the election of Israel’s new prime minister (PM) Naftali Bennett and may be a test of the resolve of Bennett to be as decisive in dealing with Iran’s provocations as was former PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Regardless of what motivated the Tehran government to execute a deadly attack on MT Mercer Street, there should be no surprise when Israel retaliates in kind.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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