U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged a “collective response” to an Iranian attack on an Israeli-operated oil tanker off the coast of Oman on Thursday that killed a Briton and a Romanian. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described the drone assault as “outrageous” and promised “consequences.”
“We are in very close contact, in coordination, with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries. And there will be a collective response,” Blinken said.
Tehran has denied involvement in the attack on the Mercer Street ship but the UK, U.S. and Romania have all confirmed to have seen irrefutable proof provided by Israel that Iran was behind it.
“Iran continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility,” he said.
Blinken said the incident was a “direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce.”
Johnson echoed Blinken, saying, “This was clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping.”
“I think that Iran should face up to the consequences of what they’ve done,” he told the BBC.
Iran on Monday warned against a retaliatory strike, saying it would hold the US and Britain responsible for any acts against it.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that he was rallying other countries to act collectively against Iran, but in the event that that failed, Israel would be compelled to act alone.
“Regarding the ship and the Iranian issue in general: We are working on enlisting the world but at the same time, we also know how to act alone,” Bennett said according to a readout from his office.
“Iran already knows the price that we exact when someone threatens our security. The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit peacefully in Tehran and from there ignite the entire Middle East. That is over,” he added.
Bennett also underscored a link between the incident and Iran’s new hardliner president, Ebrahim Raisi, who was sworn in on Tuesday.
Bennett slammed the European Union for sending a representative to the swearing-in ceremony.
“Raisi is the most extreme Iranian president of them all, and the competition in that regards is tough,” Bennett said.
“I call on the EU: One cannot talk about human rights and simultaneously honor a murderer, a hangman, who has eliminated hundreds of opponents of the regime,” he said.
Blinken, meanwhile, played down links between the attack and Raisi taking up office.
“We have seen a series of actions taken by Iran over many months, including against shipping, so I’m not sure that this particular action is anything new or augurs anything one way or another for the new government,” Blinken said.