A top Pentagon official claimed Tehran's alleged strike undermines regional stability
A senior US military commander has accused Iran of conducting a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman on Wednesday. This statement was echoed by an Israeli official quoted by CNN, who linked the incident to the World Cup in Qatar, which is scheduled to kick off this week.
Several media outlets reported that on Tuesday the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon had been hit by a drone. The vessel is operated by the company Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
In a statement, the company said that the ship was "hit by a projectile," adding that it sustained minor damage, while no casualties were reported.
While the company refrained from assigning blame, an Israeli official told CNN that the Pacific Zircon was attacked by a "HESA Shahed 136 self-destructing drone." "We see this as an Iranian provocation in the Gulf - it's not an attack against Israel - it's the same thing they usually do in the Gulf, trying to disrupt stability and mainly influence World Cup events," the official said, as quoted by CNN. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is slated to take place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18.
The Israeli official's allegation was supported by the US Central Command, which claimed that the investigation had revealed that the vessel had been struck by "a Shahed-series one-way attack drone." This incident shows "the destabilizing nature of Iranian malign activity in the region," said General Michael Kurilla, commander of US Central Command.
However, no party has so far taken responsibility for the attack.
The incident comes after Iran on Wednesday confirmed having released two Greek tankers that had been detained in the Persian Gulf in May after Athens had done the same to an Iranian-flagged vessel. The Iranian ship was impounded in April by the Greek authorities, who claimed that it had violated US sanctions against Tehran. The tankers seized by Iran, meanwhile, had been for unspecified "violations in Gulf waters."
In recent years, the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf have been marked by heightened tensions among regional powers. In July 2021, the oil tanker Mercer Street was hit in a suspected drone attack, leaving two crew members dead. The incident sparked a backlash from the G7, which pinned the blame on Iran. Tehran denied involvement, dismissing the group's statement as "baseless."