Blinken pushes for UN action on Iran’s tanker strike

Inaction over 'Mercer Street' drone attack will ‘fuel sense of impunity’ in Tehran, says US secretary of state

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged the UN to hold Iran accountable for last month’s deadly strike on a tanker off the coast of Oman, saying inaction would “fuel [its] sense of impunity”.

Mr Blinken called for action over the July 29 drone strike on the Israeli-managed Mercer Street petroleum-product tanker, which killed two seamen, and which the US and others have blamed on Iran.

He spoke at virtual UN Security Council talks on maritime security that were led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as other world leaders.

“We are confident that Iran conducted this unjustified attack, which is part of the pattern of attacks and other provocative behaviour,” Mr Blinken told the 15-nation body.

“It is on all of our nations to hold accountable those responsible. Failing to do so will only fuel their sense of impunity and embolden others inclined to disregard the maritime order.”

The Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned oil products tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime, was struck off Oman's coast. Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace urged council members to “stand in solidarity” over global seafaring rules and to “shore up that system” by taking action to “deter and penalise” those behind the attack.

The US military on Friday announced the results of its forensic study into the deadly attack in the Arabian Sea, concluding that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had been made in Iran.

“These actions threaten freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce and the lives of people on the vessels involved,” Mr Blinken told the council.

Tehran has denied any involvement in the attack.

It remains unclear whether the Security Council will take action against Iran. Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, has said it was necessary to establish the facts about the attack before action could be taken.

Censuring Iran is complicated by continuing talks between Washington, Tehran and other powers over reviving a 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the US unilaterally exited in 2018 but which President Joe Biden seeks to rejoin.

Updated: August 9th 2021, 2:58 PM