WASHINGTON – At least one Iranian drone targeted an Israeli-linked commercial shipping tanker in the Arabian Sea on Feb. 10, causing minor damage, a US military official familiar with the incident confirmed to Al-Monitor on Friday.
The official said the United States believes Iran was behind the attack due to the drone’s point of origin and tracking data, but did not specify where the device was launched from or what type of drone was used. BBC Persian first reported the incident on Friday.
Covert conflict: The attack on the Liberian-flagged oil tanker linked to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer is the latest salvo by Iran in its covert conflict with Israel.
It came just two weeks after a suspected drone attack on an Iranian military plant in Isfahan, which Iran’s government attributed to Israel. That incident caused no casualties and resulted in limited damage, Iranian officials said.
Iran has repeatedly targeted commercial vessels in the waterways around the Arabian Peninsula in recent years.
The drone used in the attack on the commercial diesel tanker MV Pacific Zircon late last year was traced back to Iran, US military officials said at the time, as were the drones used in similar attacks on the Mercer Street and Helios Ray in 2021. All three of the ships were either owned by or linked to Israeli businessmen.
Following last month’s drone incident in Isfahan, suspected Israeli airstrikes hit Iran-linked convoys crossing into Syria from Iraq along a route that Western officials say the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) uses to smuggle sophisticated projectile weapons and radar systems toward Israel’s borders.
Israeli officials rarely comment on their campaign to push back on IRGC proxy groups.
Know more: Iran is emerging as a global exporter of armed drones. Last week, an Iranian Intelligence Ministry official stated that China’s government is in line to buy 15,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, a claim Beijing has not confirmed.
Russia has already received hundreds of Iranian Shahed-136s, Shahed-131s and reportedly at least a few Mohajer-6 UAVs from Tehran, and has launched many of them against civilian targets in Ukraine.
Biden administration officials are increasingly concerned that Russia’s tactical transactions with Iran on drones could develop into strategic alignment that may further embolden Iran’s attacks in the Middle East.
Earlier this week, senior Pentagon and US State Department officials sat down with Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts in Riyadh to discuss the evolving threat.