Pentagon would not rule out response for Gulf transport assault

The Pentagon has not dominated out enjoying a task within the “collective response” promised by the Biden administration to a drone assault on an Israeli-owned transport vessel final week within the Gulf of Oman.

The assault, which US, UK and Israeli officers have blamed on Iran, killed two individuals: the ship’s Romanian captain and a British crew member.

“A coordinated response doesn’t have to be a military response,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby advised reporters Tuesday, earlier than including, “Certainly we’ll do what we need to do to protect our forces and our interests.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday referred to as Thursday’s strike on the MV Mercer Street “a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce” and mentioned Iran’s authorities continues to point out “tremendous irresponsibility” by pursuing such assaults.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has referred to as the assault “outrageous” and mentioned Iran should “face up to the consequences.” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz advised the members of the Knesset on Monday that Iran’s proliferation of drones and missiles “poses an immediate danger” within the area and that Israel should “act now” to reply.

The head of US forces within the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, spoke on the cellphone with the Israeli army’s chief of employees, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, on Monday.

The two mentioned “recent events in the Middle East and cooperation between the countries,” the Israel Defense Forces mentioned in a press release.

The deadly drone assault comes after a sequence of Israeli sabotage assaults in opposition to Iranian tankers delivering petroleum to Syria in violation of worldwide sanctions. Israel has additionally carried out tons of of airstrikes inside Syria in opposition to suspected Iran-linked targets, largely to stop precision-guided missile kits from falling into the fingers of Iranian proxy teams near Israel’s borders.

The United States started offering army and intelligence help for Israel’s air marketing campaign throughout the Trump administration in 2018, however the quiet battle now threatens to scuttle the regional ambitions of the Biden administration.

Washington’s discuss of a collective response comes as present officers intention to make the most of what some see as a narrowing window to renew stalled negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program in change for sanctions aid.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned Tuesday that the administration is “fully committed” to returning to the oblique talks with Iranian officers in Vienna.

Mick Mulroy, the Pentagon’s former high coverage official for the Middle East, advised Al-Monitor that the deliberate response will possible be “calculated so as not to escalate the current situation but still send a message that this type of reckless and deadly action against a civilian vessel will not be tolerated.”

President Joe Biden has twice licensed airstrikes in opposition to Iran-backed militia positions in Iraq and Syria for rocket and drone assaults on US forces in Iraq.

Neither these strikes nor the Trump administration’s stance towards Tehran have halted militia assaults in opposition to US personnel in Iraq, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman advised lawmakers Tuesday.

One former senior US official instructed the Biden administration may go for a “deniable” response to the Mercer Street incident, “something that Iran knows was the US, but isn’t something that would derail the JCPOA negotiations.”

A cyberattack “could do a lot of damage but would not be so escalatory,” mentioned the previous official, who had information of prior such operations.

The Trump administration reportedly carried out a cyberattack in opposition to Iran following the 2019 drone and cruise missile assault on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil services.

Also Tuesday, the United Kingdom’s Maritime Trade Organization (MTO) reported {that a} Panama-flagged bitumen tanker, the Asphalt Princess, could have been the goal of a “potential hijack” within the Gulf of Oman, some 60 nautical miles east of the Emirati port metropolis of Fujairah. The MTO cited third-party sources within the report.

The Times of London additionally cited authorities sources within the UK as saying the Asphalt Princess had been hijacked by a gaggle of eight or 9 armed males. The Times reported its sources had been “working on the assumption that Iranian military or proxies boarded the vessel.”

Kirby on Tuesday couldn’t verify reviews of the hijacking. 

Earlier Tuesday, Reuters reported that no less than 5 ships in Gulf waters reported their vessels had been “not under command” — a standing indicating the captain and crew are unable to regulate the ship’s motion. It was not instantly clear whether or not the reviews had been associated to the reported seizure of the Asphalt Princess.

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