Iran Says Has ‘Right to Respond’ After Latest Ship Attack

Israel denies involvement in recent oil spill

Since 2019, Israel has attacked ships, particularly those it believes belong to Iran, at an alarming rate. At least a dozen oil tankers headed to Syria have been hit, and the US is believed to have endorsed the process.

These attacks were so common they went largely unnoticed. They are increasingly becoming a military, economic, and environmental concern, centered around hits against two recent boats.

The first ship was the supertanker Emerald, owned by Libya, flagged by Panama. This was one of those many oil tankers that Israel reckons was going from Iran to Syria. We might never have heard of it, either, except that after the attack the oil spilled all over the Israeli coast.

Israeli officials are not admitting that they attacked the tanker, but they’re also saying the oil spill wasn’t their fault. For now, who attacked it is just speculation, though Israel is a prime suspect. Israeli officials, however, they’re looking to blame Syria, whose ship it was in the first place.

This would’ve been more ambiguous except that over the past week Israel attacked the cargo ship Shahr-e Kord, an Iranian ship. Iran says they have the absolute right to respond militarily to this, and will decide how to protect their rights.

This comes just weeks after an explosion on an Israeli ship, which Israel blamed on Iran, and seems like retaliation. Iran denied involvement, however, and now seems to be seeking retaliation of its own.

All of this suggests maritime tensions are on the rise, and more tit-for-tat attacks may be likely. While Israel had the Trump Administration’s permission to do as it wants, it’s not so clear Biden will give them carte blanche, even if it is Israel’s inclination to keep the strikes up.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of