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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a briefing

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz addresses a press conference in the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 7, 2021. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Need to Take Military Action': Israeli Defense Minister Threatens War With Iran

Denying responsibility for a deadly drone strike in the Arabian Sea, the Iranian Foreign Ministry warned that "any anti-Iran adventurism will receive an immediate and decisive response."

Jake Johnson

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that his country is prepared take military action against Iran in the wake of a reported drone strike on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea last week—a deadly attack that Israel, the U.S., and the United Kingdom have blamed on Iran without offering a shred of supporting evidence or intelligence.

"We are at a point where we need to take military action against Iran,” Gantz told local reporters. "The world needs to take action against Iran now."

Iran has denied that it was behind the drone strike. Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday that "reported 'incidents' in the Persian Gulf and broader region appear utterly suspicious."

"Reaffirming our strong commitment to regional stability and maritime security, Iran stands ready to offer assistance in case of any maritime accidents," Khatibzadeh said as the U.S. also accused Iran of hijacking a separate oil tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

On Wednesday, Khatibzadeh posted a tweet condemning "provocative and orchestrated" August 1 statements by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, both of whom blamed Iran for the drone strike on the Mercer Street, an oil tanker operated by the London-based company Zodiac Maritime. The firm is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer's Zodiac Group.

"Having kept silent about repeated terrorist attacks on Iranian ships, they now baselessly accuse Iran," Khatibzadeh wrote. "Any anti-Iran adventurism will receive an immediate and decisive response."

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, Zahra Ershadi, Iran's deputy ambassador to the U.N., wrote that Israel "has a long dark record in attacking commercial navigation and civilian ships."

"In less than two years," Ershadi continued, "this regime has attacked over 10 commercial vessels carrying oil and humanitarian goods destined to Syria."

In April, Iran accused Israel of attacking one of its nuclear energy facilities and an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea.

As the Washington Post reported over the weekend, "Hostilities over the past two years between Israel and Iran have frequently played out at sea, in tit-for-tat attacks by both countries on oil tankers, private commercial vessels, or warships—a conflict often referred to as part of a 'shadow war' that feels increasingly overt."

A British national and a Romanian citizen were killed in the drone strike on the Mercer Street vessel last Thursday. Romania has joined Israel, the U.S., and the U.K. in blaming Iran for the attack.

In his statement on Sunday, Blinken vowed that an "appropriate response" to the drone strike "will be forthcoming," but did not elaborate on the nature of the pending action.

Asked during an interview on Wednesday whether the drone strike merits a military response, Gantz said, "Yes, yes, and Israel has to do its part."

Gantz's threatening comments came on the same day of the inauguration of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was elected amid tense diplomatic efforts to revive the Iran nuclear accord. As the Associated Press noted Wednesday, the recent attacks on vessels in the Persian Gulf "began a year after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers" in May of 2018.

In June of 2019, the Trump administration blamed Iran for a tanker attack in the Gulf of Oman.

Sina Toossi, a senior research analyst with the National Iranian American Council, said in a statement marking Raisi's inauguration that the governments of the U.S. and Iran must "eschew confrontation in favor of engagement, return to the nuclear deal on a compliance-for-compliance basis, and work to reduce tensions in the region through dialogue."

"Diplomacy is the sole force that can remove the shadow of war from over the heads of both Americans and Iranians, end draconian sanctions that have impoverished ordinary Iranians from all walks of life, and nurture connections between Iranians and the outside world," Toossi added. "The U.S. should in parallel to the diplomatic track also engage in good-faith and direly needed humanitarian actions including the lifting of sanctions that deny Iranians access to personal communications tools and services and facilitate medical aid to Iran amid the pandemic."


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