Western allies must develop an urgent plan to retaliate against Iran following multiple reported attacks on oil tankers near Oman, according to a senior Israeli official who warned Tehran is reaching a major nuclear threshold.
“Iran has once again proven to be a global challenge, a regional challenge, and also a challenge to the State of Israel,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told a group of ambassadors Wednesday. “It is time for diplomatic, economic, and even military deeds — otherwise, the attacks will continue.”
Gantz, along with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, directed that message to envoys from each of the countries that currently hold a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The outreach followed last week’s attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker in international waters off the coast of Oman that killed two sailors, one from the United Kingdom and another from Romania.
“The UK has written to [United Nations] Security Council President . . . alongside Romania & Liberia to raise Iran’s attack on MV Mercer Street,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted Wednesday. “The Council must respond to Iran’s destabilizing actions & lack of respect for international law.”
Days after the Mercer Street attack, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations warned a “potential hijack” of another tanker in the Arabian Sea was underway. Omani officials also acknowledged that “a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman,” but the incident reportedly ended with the departure of the boarding party.
“We believe that these personnel were Iranian, but we’re not in a position to confirm this at this time,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday.
Iranian officials deny any incident took place.
“According to our direct links in the Persian Gulf region, no information on new incidents for any merchant ship in the region is confirmed so far,” the regime’s embassy in London tweeted. “Misleading the public all around the world for diplomatic gain in New York is not fair game.”
The oil tanker incidents were reported in the days leading up to the inauguration of incoming President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line jurist whose designation as the victor of the recent Iranian elections interrupted the “indirect talks” about the rehabilitation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“This is an attack on the world’s trade routes. This is an attack on freedom of movement. This is an international crime,” Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, told the UNSC ambassadors 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 controversy could aggravate the already-fraught state of play between the United States and Iran, as President Joe Biden’s team aspires to mend the 2015 nuclear deal while reassuring Middle Eastern allies alarmed by Iran’s other hostile actions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team has characterized the renewal of the nuclear deal as the first step toward a broader negotiation to curtail Iran’s non-nuclear aggression in the region, but incoming Raisi maintains they will never discuss a broader agreement with the U.S.
“Iran is responsible for dozens of terror attacks across the Middle East while controlling its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, and additional countries,” Gantz, the Israeli defense minister, emphasized to the assembled diplomats. “Iran has violated all of the guidelines set in the [2015 Iran nuclear deal] and is only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon. Now is the time for deeds – words are not enough.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke