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UK and Israel coordinating response to Iranian attack

What happened: Senior Israeli official spoke over the weekend with their British and US counterparts in order to coordinate a diplomatic and military response to Iran.

  • On Friday, the Mercer Street tanker ship, was attacked by two UAVs rigged with explosives, off the coast of Oman, two crew members — a Brit and a Romanian were killed.
  • The tanker sailed under a Japanese flag and operated by Zodiac Maritime, a British company that is itself partially-owned by Israeli businessman a Eyal Ofer.
  • Israel has shared intelligence with both the US and UK proving Iran was responsible for the attack.
  • Both the US and the UK strongly condemned the attack.  According to the UK government statement: “We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran.”
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed, “The UK is working with our international partners on a concerted response to this unacceptable attack.”
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken concurred, saying, “Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region.”
  • While IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi spoke with his British counterpart, Sir Nick Carter. According to Israeli sources they will coordinate a joint response.
  • The Iranians are denying responsibility with their Foreign Ministry stating: “The Zionist regime is sowing destruction and violence and is undermining regional stability. We vehemently condemn the allegations as if Iran was involved in the attack.”
  • However, over the weekend Iran media reported the attack was in retaliation for recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria.
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commented on the Iranian denials, saying that the Iranian had “aimed to strike an Israeli target. Instead, their act of piracy led to the death of a British citizen and a Romanian citizen. I send from here to Britain and Romania our condolences, and of course to the families of the victims”.

Context: The Iranian threat remains the Israeli government’s highest priority, both in their ambition to become a nuclear threshold state and their plans for regional hegemony and supporting proxies against Israel in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

  • This is the fifth attack this year against commercial ships with an Israeli connection, carried out by Iran. However, all previous attack caused minor damage and no loss of life.
  • Israel has also targeted Iranian navy vessels that have either been transporting weapons or oil to Syria.
  • The Iranians probably did not intend to kill anyone in the attack. According to Israeli assessments, it again highlights their poor professionalism and bad intelligence if they thought they were attacking an Israeli target.
  • Iran considers Israeli ships as a soft target as they are far from Israel and exposed with no military protection.
  • Israel hopes this latest attack and the clear intelligence that Iran was responsible will strengthen the resolve of the international community to recognise the dangers inherent within the Iranian regime.

Looking ahead: The US and UK are expected to convene the UN Security Council to condemn Iran and reinforce the message that attacks to international shipping is unacceptable.

  • The US could also impose sanctions against members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who took part in the attack.
  • On Thursday Ebrahim Raisi will be sworn in as the new President of Iran. In light of this latest attack, Israel is expected to intensify its diplomatic offensive connecting Raisi’s personal history as someone involved in the execution of thousands of Iranian citizens and the death of the two sailors on Friday.
  • Reports in Arab media suggest that the US and the UK have given Israel a green light to respond against Iran, with Israel considering attacking either an Iranian port or a military ship — possibly the same ship that launched the UAVs in the attack.
  • The Iranian threat will likely be the top agenda item when Prime Minister Bennett travels to the US to meet President Biden later this month.

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