Iranian forces launched “two unsuccessful explosive” drone attacks at an oil tanker last week before a third drone “loaded with a military-grade explosive” hit the ship and killed two sailors on board, U.S. military officials revealed.
“The crew reported the attacks via distress calls on the evening of July 29,” U.S. Central Command officials stated in a press bulletin detailing the evidence of Iranian culpability. “The investigative team determined that the extensive damage to the Mercer Street, documented in the attached slides, was the result of a third UAV attack on July 30.”
Iranian officials have denied responsibility for the assault, but Iranian state media reports portray the bombing of the Israeli-managed vessel as retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria. The killing of one British citizen and one Romanian citizen galvanized European anger over the attack, prompting a diplomatic backlash that continued to build Friday with a statement of condemnation from the G-7, the bloc of the world’s seven largest industrialized democracies.
“All available evidence clearly points to Iran,” the G-7 foreign ministers said Friday. “There is no justification for this attack.”
The first two “suicide drones” exploded in the water, allowing the oil tanker crew to collect “small remnants of at least one” of the weapons. The direct strike left larger pieces of shrapnel, including some parts "which were nearly identical to previously collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs,” according to CENTCOM.
“Following an on-scene analysis, some of the material was transferred to U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain and subsequently to a U.S. national laboratory for further testing and verification,” the bulletin read. “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 Mercer Street attack gave way to another assault on an oil tanker in the region — “a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman,” as Omani officials described it. Western powers have been less emphatic in blaming Iran for that incident, which ended with the departure of the hijackers.
“We can confirm that personnel have left the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess, this commercial vessel that was seized yesterday,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday. “We believe that these personnel were Iranian, but we’re not in a position to confirm this at this time.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged a “collective response” to the Mercer Street attack, while Israeli officials have vowed to retaliate unilaterally if other powers fail to react.
“This is an attack on the world's trade routes. This is an attack on freedom of movement. This is an international crime,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told diplomats representing the members of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday. “If the international community does not respond in this attack, then there is no such thing as an international community. Instead, it will be, ‘every man for himself.’”
The G-7 statement (which united Japan, the European Union, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. in condemnation of the attack) likewise put a spotlight on the impropriety of attacking a commercial ship in international waters, but it did not make any specific reference to military retaliation.
“Vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law,” the G-7 foreign ministers said. “We will continue to do our utmost to protect all shipping, upon which the global economy depends, so that it is able to operate freely and without being threatened by irresponsible and violent acts.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke
Original Location: US military: Iran attacked Mercer Street tanker with three suicide drones