Iranian Kamikaze drones, widely used by Russia and Houthi forces.

In Major Escalation US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Oil Tanker

Sunday, 12/24/2023

In a major development, the Pentagon said that the kamikaze drone which struck an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean early Saturday was launched directly from Iran.

The incident comes against a backdrop of Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, and may suggest an escalation of regional tensions that began with the Hamas rampage of Israel on October 7 and the ensuing Israeli onslaught on Gaza.

So far, the maritime theater of conflict was confined to the Red Sea, with Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen the sole instigator.

One day before the Saturday attack, the US government accused Iran of being “deeply involved” in Houthi operations in the Red Sea. This is the first time in the recent conflict, however, that the Biden administration blames Iran for directly striking a vessel –and the first time such a strike takes place so far away from the Red Sea.

The tanker Chem Pluto was hit 200 nautical miles from the Indian coast, carrying oil from Saudi Arabia to India.

MV Cham Pluto is a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned vessel managed by the Netherlands’ Ace-Quantum Chemical Tankers, which is reportedly connected to the Israeli shipping tycoon Idan Ofer. And that may explain why it was selected as a target.

Some Iranian one-way “kamikaze” drones boast a range of “over 1,000 kilometers”. The one most publicized, perhaps, is Shahed 136 that has been used by Russia against Ukraine.

Iran has not yet reacted to the claim that it was behind the attack on Chem Pluto. But the regime officials have repeatedly denied involvement in the Houthi attacks.

“The resistance has its own tools of power and acts according to its decisions and capabilities,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Saturday in reaction to the White House claim that the regime in Tehran was "deeply involved" in planning the Houthi operations. Iran’s foreign minister repeated the counterclaim.

“We told the Americans that if we had a role, we would have declared it,” he said Saturday. “We do not have any proxy groups. These groups are real and act in line with their country's national security.”

The “kamikaze” attack on an oil tanker headed for India 200 miles off the Indian coast is a serious development, whoever the perpetrator. It could cause shipping insurance rates to go higher and ‘unsafe’ waters expand to the Indian Ocean and elsewhere, exacerbating the disruption caused by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

In an interview with the Telegraph on Saturday, the UK foreign secretary warned about dangers to “maritime freedom” caused by recent attacks. He said Iran must be sent “an incredibly clear message that this escalation will not be tolerated.”

Only hours earlier, the IRGC’s deputy commander had threatened that the Mediterranean Sea could be closed if the US and its allies continued to commit "crimes" in Gaza –without any suggestions as to how such a threat could be realized. 

In the US, many critics of President Joe Biden say it is his reluctance to confront Iran that has emboldened the regime and its proxies in the region.

“Iran proxies, the Houthi rebels, are small in number but have all but stalled commerce in the Red Sea while we do nothing to stop them,” said former US national security advisor John Bolton on Saturday. “The mullahs in Tehran will not cooperate with our government no matter how hard Biden and Obama-era officials blindly push a return to the flawed 2015 nuclear deal to appease them.”

Congressman Mike Collins seconded the critique.

“Iran can strike civilian ships and the Biden administration will do nothing in return. Deterrence is dead,” he posted on X Saturday evening.

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