November 2022 – Integrity Insights Special Report: Iran

Iranian Drone Strike on Israeli-linked Oil Tanker

(CENTCOM/Southwest Asia) US Central Command concluded an Iranian drone attacked an Israeli-owned oil tanker on 15 Nov 2022. “The Iranian attack on a commercial tanker transiting international waters was deliberate, flagrant, and dangerous… destabilizing maritime security in the Middle East” according to the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

An Iranian drone launched from the southeastern city of Chabahar on 15 Nov and struck the Liberian flagged Pacific Zircon 150 miles off the coast of Oman. The Pacific Zircon, owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and operated by Eastern Pacific Shipping, reported minor damage but no injuries from the “HESA Shahed 136 self-destructing drone.” US and British forces responded to the incident, assisting the ship, and gathering evidence and debris to confirm the use of the Shahed 136 – which is the same type of drone used to attack targets in Ukraine.

An Iranian Provocation

Shahed 136

An Israeli official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation stated, “We see this as an Iranian provocation in the Gulf – it’s not an attack against Israel – it’s the same thing they usually do…trying to disrupt stability.” The Iranian attack came hours after the U.S. Navy announced it had found 70 tons of missile fuel components hidden among bags of fertilizer on a ship bound for Yemen from Iran.

This was the first Iranian attack against Israeli owned vessels since 29 July 2021, when the Mercer Street was attacked in the same area. Iranian media claimed the attack was in response to a 22 July Israeli attack against Hezbollah near a military airfield in Syria.

Integrity ISR Assessment

The attack on the Pacific Zircon in the Gulf of Oman occurred within hours of the seizure of missile fuel components bound for Yemen from Iran. Although Iran has targeted other ships in the region, they have a history of targeting Israeli-related ships. The Zircon likely posed a target of opportunity and the attack is consistent with Iran’s asymmetric strategy.

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