‘Don’t test us:’ Iran responds to Israeli threat of military action

August 6, 2021 - 18:13

TEHRAN – Tehran on Thursday reacted to remarks by a high-ranking Israeli official who had threatened Iran with a military strike to stop its nuclear program, saying any adventurism against the country will be met with a decisive response.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh warned Israel against any “foolish move,” saying that Iran will decisively respond to any such move.
“In another brazen violation of Int'l law, Israeli regime now blatantly threatens Iran with military action. Such malign behavior stems from blind Western support,” Khatibzadeh said on Twitter. “We state this clearly: ANY foolish act against Iran will be met with a DECISIVE response. Don't test us.”

He was responding to a threat issued by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz against Iran. Gantz said Israel is ready to take military action against Iran. The remarks came amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel over a mysterious attack on an Israeli-operated oil tanker off the coast of Oman nearly nine days ago. 

The Israeli-operated ship Mercer Street was attacked off the coast of Oman on July 29 while traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. The oil tanker, managed by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime, was reportedly attacked by suicide drones. Zodiac Maritime said two crewmen, a British and Romanian national, died in the attack.

“With profound sadness, we understand the incident onboard the M/T Mercer Street on 29 July, 2021 has resulted in the deaths of two crew members on board,” the UK-based Israeli company said in a statement on Friday afternoon, a day after the attack.

Israel, the U.S. and the UK blamed Iran for the attack without presenting any evidence to support their accusations.  

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that Tel Aviv knows with certainty Iran attacked the Mercer Street ship and will respond to it. 

“I determine, with absolute certainty – Iran carried out the attack against the ship,” Bennett stated, according to the Jerusalem Post. “The intelligence evidence for this exists and we expect the international community will make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a serious mistake.”

He noted, “In any case, we know how to send a message to Iran in our own way.”

The UK also followed suit. “We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran. UK assessments have concluded that it is highly likely that Iran attacked the MV Mercer Street in international waters off Oman on 29 July using one or more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),” said a UK statement last week. “The UK is working with our international partners on a concerted response to this unacceptable attack.”

Iran said it was not behind the attack on the Israeli ship. Khatibzadeh has responded to allegations by U.S. and UK top diplomats against Iran about last week’s attack on an Israeli oil tanker off the coast of Oman.

Khatibzadeh said the statements issued by U.S. and UK top diplomats contain “contradictory” claims and “provocative and false accusations.” He condemned these statements and called them “deeply regrettable.”

“Such coordinated statements (from Britain and the U.S.) include contradictory phrases per se, in a way that they first level accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran without providing any evidence and document and then talk about the ‘possibility’ of this,” Khatibzadeh said. 

The spokesman described Iran as an advocate and supporter of the safe navigation of ships in the Persian Gulf and international waters, and said as a country that has the longest sea borders in the Persian Gulf, Iran is always prepared for cooperation with regional countries to ensure maritime security.

He also noted that Iran considers the presence and interference of the extra-regional forces in the Persian Gulf waters and its littoral states to be harmful to the region’s stability and security.

“It is a pity that these countries (the U.S. and Britain) have remained supportively silent about the terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage against Iranian trade vessels in the Red Sea and international waters, but have raised bogus allegations against Iran with political bias in a brazen manner. If these countries have any evidence for their bogus claims, they should present them,” he added.

In a tweet on Monday, the spokesman warned, “As guarantor of Persian Gulf security, Iran strongly condemns provocative & orchestrated UK/US statements. Having kept silent abt REPEATED terrorist attacks on IRANIAN ships, they now baselessly accuse IRAN. Any anti-Iran adventurism will receive IMMEDIATE & DECISIVE response.”

In the midst of the kerfuffle over Mercer Street, several Western media outlets alleged that a number of commercial ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were harassed by allegedly Iranian forces. Iran strongly denied any involvement and even said there were no incidents taking place in the Gulf of Oman, where the alleged harassment reported happened. 

The Iranian embassy in the UK even warned of an unfair game intended to mislead the public. “According to our direct links in the Persian Gulf region, no information on new incidents for any merchant ship in the region is confirmed so far. Misleading the public all around the world for diplomatic gain in New York is not fair game,” the embassy said on Twitter.

Allegations propagated by Western media were dismissed by Iranian officials as a prelude to new adventurism by the West against Iran. The senior spokesman for the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, denounced the Western press reports about the alleged incidents in the Gulf of Oman as “psych ops” and an effort to pave the way for new adventurism against Iran.

“Conflicting reports by Western, Zionist, and Saudi media about any maritime insecurity and hijacking of vessels in the region’s waters are sort of psych ops and a prelude to new adventurism,” the Iranian general said. “The armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, while supporting passage of commercial ships, are well-prepared and have full intelligence surveillance over any suspicious moves.”

The continuation of Western reports prompted Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Hossein Salami to issue a stark warning against any provocation.

He called on the enemies to abandon wrong moves and plots and avoid challenging Iran, saying that, otherwise, they would receive a crushing response that would make them regret their moves.

Tensions between Israel and Iran came against a backdrop of ambiguity over the fate of the Vienna nuclear talks between Iran and the West. The talks have been put on hold since more than a month ago with no resumption date in sight. 

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