Ken McCallum of MI5 on Iran terror threat to Britons

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The UK’s Royal Navy was the first to respond to a suspected attack by Iran on a Israeli billionaire’s oil tanker, a US White House press briefing has revealed. 

The briefing thanked the UK for leading the “multilateral coordination” in response to the attack by a bomber drone, which the US said they “condemn in the strongest possible terms”.

Last night the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon was attacked off the coast of Oman, during a period of heightened tensions between Iran and Israel. 

The White House stated it was “confident that Iran likely conducted this attack using a UAV” – an unmanned aerial vehicle, which the US described as “lethal”.

The tanker survived the attack, with no one reported as harmed.

A statement from tanker owner Eastern Pacific Shipping, owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, said at the time: “We are in communication with the vessel and there is no reports of injuries or pollution. All crew are safe and accounted for”.

They added there was “some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress.”

While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Iran. Tehran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war in the wider Middle East, with some drone attacks targeting Israeli-associated vessels travelling around the region.

The White House’s latest briefing stated the attack was the “latest in a pattern of such actions and broader destabilizing activities.”

The US also expressed concern for the safety of “international shipping and commerce”, as well as the “lives of those on the vessels involved”.

An Israeli official speaking to CNN described the attack as an “Iranian provocation in the Gulf”, arguing that the objective was not to attack Israel itself, but to “disrupt stability” and “influence World Cup events”.

The attack fits with other similar incidents carried out by Iran in the past. 

On July 30, 2021, an armed drone attacked a cargo ship named Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, killing two. That ship was similarly associated with an Israeli billionaire.

In an investigation of the incident, US Central Command (CENTCOM) determined that a one-way drone was loaded with military-grade explosives and launched from Iran.

In a statement to USNI News, CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael Kurilla said of yesterday’s strike: “This Unmanned Aerial Vehicle attack against a civilian vessel in this critical maritime strait demonstrates, once again, the destabilizing nature of Iran’s malign activity in the region.”

The US also blamed Iran for a series of attacks occurring off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

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The drone used, according to an unnamed Israeli official speaking to Agence France-Presse newswire and another speaking to CNN, was a Shahed 136 explosive drone.

This is the same type of drone the country is accused of supplying to Russia to aid their war in Ukraine.

Iran is facing international condemnation for supplying the drones, which have been used to carry out strikes against civilian targets across the country by Russia. 

It is beset by protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, with protestors calling for reform of the country’s extremely restrictive and punishing laws around women’s clothing. One of the protestors, who has a warrant out for her arrest, told what it is like living under the Iranian regime.

Sara, an Iranian protestor whose name has been changed for anonymity, explained the fear that comes with living as a woman in Iran, and explained their determination to keep up the protests despite the government’s violence. Sara said the regime had put a warrant out for her arrest, and she feared “mass executions” may be on the horizon.

She said further violence is likely on the horizon for those now being trialled for protesting, saying: “To increase the fear among the protestors, they want to kill a lot of those who got arrested. People say they are going to do it as soon as possible to make people scared.”

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