September 17, 2021

Iran made 'big mistake' in deadly tanker attack, says UK's military chief

August 04, 2021

The UK's military chief has said Iran made a "big mistake" when it targeted the Mercer Street tanker in a deadly attack.

General Sir Nick Carter said Iran must be called out for its "very reckless behaviour".

UK, Romanian and Liberian officials announced they have written to the UN Security Council president over last Thursday's incident.

Posting on social media, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The Council must respond to Iran's destabilising actions and lack of respect for international law."

The suspected Iranian drone attack on the Israeli-linked Mercer Street left a British national and a Romanian dead.

The British security guard has been named as Adrian Underwood, an army veteran and married father of one, on a crowdfunding site set up to raise money in his memory.

The UK, Israel and the United States have accused Iran of the fatal assault and vowed to respond.

And on Wednesday, General Sir Nick said deterrence must be restored.

"What we need to be doing fundamentally is calling out Iran for very reckless behaviour," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"They made a big mistake on the attack they did against the Mercer Street vessel last week because, of course, that has very much internationalised the state of play in the Gulf."

He added: "Ultimately, we have got to restore deterrence because it is behaviour like that which leads to escalation, and that could very easily lead to miscalculation and that would be very disastrous for all the peoples of the Gulf and the international community."

Iran has denied responsibility and said it would respond to any threat against its security.

The Iranian embassy in the UK on Wednesday hit out on Twitter over what it said were "hoaxes" surrounding the Mercer Street incident and a separate "potential hijack" of another tanker, the Asphalt Princess, allegedly by suspected Iranian-backed forces, which has now ended.

Among the tweets was a message saying: "There was no information confirmed about incidents. For us the issue is not over yet."

Another read: "Beware of false flag against peoples on # Persian Gulf coasts."

Mr Underwood worked for maritime security company Ambrey. Managing director John Thompson said he will "much missed".

He said in a statement: "Although the formal identification process is still under way, it is with enormous sadness that we announce that the British national killed in the security incident onboard the M/T Mercer Street vessel was Adrian Underwood.

"Adrian was a former soldier in the British Army with a distinguished record of service.

"He came to work for Ambrey in 2020 and his qualities were quickly recognised as he was rapidly promoted from maritime security officer to team leader.

"We continue to be in contact with Adrian's family to offer support at this sad and difficult time and we request their privacy is respected. I know that Adrian will be much missed by everyone he worked with."

In the separate shipping incident, a Royal Navy threat centre said the "potential hijack" of an oil tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday was over.

Sources blamed the seizure on forces backed by Iran. Tehran has denied any involvement.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations, which first revealed something had happened to the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess, said in an update on its website: "Boarders have left the vessel. Vessel is safe. Incident complete."

British officials - so far - do not appear to regard the targeting of the Asphalt Princess, operated by a company based in Dubai, as a new escalation, though there were clearly concerns about a ship allegedly being seized by Iranian-linked gunmen.

A security source said a group of eight or nine individuals were believed have boarded the ship on Tuesday.

"It was an unauthorised boarding in the Gulf of Oman," the source said.

Two sources said it was highly probable the personnel were backed by Iran.

Tehran, however, has denied the allegations, claiming they had been a pretext for "hostile action" against Iran, state television reported on its website.

The Asphalt Princess tanker has no links to the UK or Israel.

Aurora Intel, an open source intelligence website, said the vessel is owned by Prime Tanker LLC, which also owns a tanker called the Riat.

In 2019 - during a previous tanker crisis - Iran said it had seized the Riat vessel briefly because of alleged fuel smuggling.

It was not immediately clear why the Asphalt Princess was taken or why the ship was then released.

British special forces are already in the region following the Mercer Street attack.

The team is assisting in the investigation into what happened.

The Mercer Street is Japanese owned, but was sailing with a Liberian Flag and is managed by Zodiac Maritime, a UK firm that is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer's Zodiac Group.

Iran's ambassador to the UK was summoned by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on Tuesday following the attack.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Iran must "face up to the consequences" of its actions, adding that the Mercer Street incident "was clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping, a UK national died".

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has promised to work with allies on a "concerted response".

Israel has also urged a tough reaction. The country is already locked in a shadow conflict with Iran.

Three other tankers linked to Israel have been targeted since February, while Iran has experienced a number of cyber attacks and mysterious explosions.

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