Is Iran escalating in the Gulf of Oman? - analysis

Iran has long sought to target ships it thinks are linked to Israel. Iran has also targeted other ships in the Gulf of Oman.

 A view of support ship Shahid Baziar from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel in international waters of the Arabian Gulf, August 30, 2022.  (photo credit: US NAVY VIA REUTERS)
A view of support ship Shahid Baziar from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel in international waters of the Arabian Gulf, August 30, 2022.
(photo credit: US NAVY VIA REUTERS)

Reports of an explosive drone attack on a ship in the Gulf of Oman may represent a new escalation by Iran or Iran-backed proxies against shipping. 

According to the Associated Press report “an oil tanker associated with an Israeli billionaire has been struck by a bomb-carrying drone off the coast of Oman amid heightened tensions with Iran, an official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.” 

In the past Iran has targeted ships with mines in May and June 2019. Last July, Iran targeted the Mercer Street oil tanker with drones. One drone slammed into the bridge of the ship, killing two members of the crew. 

In the spring of 2021 there were also several incidents involving attacks on ships, including the Helios Ray in February and the Hyperion Ray in April. A ship called the Lori was also struck in March 2021. The CSAV Tyndall was also reportedly involved in an incident in July of 2021.  

Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019 (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019 (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)

Iranian attacks off the coast of Oman

The recent attack took place off the coast of Oman. The AP report notes that an “official identified the vessel attacked as the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon. That tanker is operated by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is a company ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.”  

Iran has long sought to target ships it thinks are linked to Israel. Iran has also targeted other ships in the Gulf of Oman. It has even sought to hijack UK and Greek ships and sent a team to steal a ship off the coast of the UAE in 2020. The US navy said it intercepted 70 tons of missiles bound for Yemen aboard a dhow according to a report yesterday.