Though broadcasting weakness, Tehran’s attack on an Israeli-linked vessel was a severe act of terrorism, undermining global freedom of navigation in a strategically vital region.
The world really must respond forcefully to the recent Iranian attack on an Israel-linked oil tanker in the strategically vital Gulf of Oman.
The strike was apparently a response to an attack on an Iranian military site in Isfahan in January which the Iranians attributed to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. The Iranians announced at the time that they would respond to the strike.
Targeting civilian merchant ships, which indicate their position via the global AIS (automatic identification system) is a relatively straightforward operation. Dispatching a drone from Iran to attack such a target does not require a great deal of sophistication or complex operational capability. Indeed, Tehran’s inability to hit more significant Israeli targets is indicative of weakness.
Having said that, the attack was still a severe act of terrorism, undermining global freedom of navigation in a maritime channel through which a large percentage of global oil is transported, representing a real threat to the global supply of energy.
The attack on the Campo Square took place several days ago in the Gulf of Oman. The Pacific Zircon oil tanker, which flies a Liberian flag, was making its way from Sohar Port in Oman to a port in Latvia, apparently to offload its cargo. The vessel was attacked by an Iranian “Shahed” drone.
In exclusive photos published by CNN, a hole of about one meter in diameter appears to have been made in the ship’s structure, and the remaining drone parts lodged in it were sufficient to prove that this was indeed an Iranian drone, of a type sold by Iran to Russia for use in the war against Ukraine.
Despite the damage, the ship continued on its way to Latvia. Immediately after the attack, a British Navy destroyer approached the tanker offering aid, but the vessel announced that despite the damage, there had been no casualties and it was able to continue on its voyage.
A United Arab Emirates vessel also reported that it had been hit, possibly also by a drone, with the U.S. Fifth Fleet and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan accusing Tehran of responsibility.
Attacks on ships owned by Israeli citizens have been carried out on several occasions in the past. In July 2021, the oil tanker MT Mercer Street was attacked, and once again the attack was perpetrated in the Gulf of Oman. The ship was Japanese-owned, and operated by the Zodiac Shipping company, owned by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer. The ship’s Romanian captain was killed, along with a British security guard, leading to extensive global condemnation.
Although this time there was thankfully no loss of life, the world should not sit idly by, and should respond with appropriate force and vigor to these Iranian acts of hostility.
Vice Adm. (ret.) Eliezer Marom served as commander of the Israeli Navy from 2007–2011.