Gantz: We Have to Act Now on Iran

Head of the Blue and White party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the Knesset on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has urged immediate action against Iran following a drone attack on an Israeli-managed oil tanker that killed two crew members.

“Iran’s aggression in the region generally and the maritime front, in particular, is intensifying,” Gantz told a Knesset plenum on Monday. “This is the exact reason that we must act right now against Iran, which not only strives for a nuclear military [program] but also is leading to a dangerous arms race and the crumbling of stability in the Middle East.”

“Israel holds a variety of tools and options to protect its citizens and we’ll settle the score with whoever seeks to hurt us,” Gantz added.

He also said Iran poses a threat to the whole world and not just Israel.

Gantz characterized it as “an escalation” by Iran. However, a statement later on Monday evening from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken seemed to differ in his assessment, seeing it more in the context of ongoing tensions in the region.

Blinken described the attack as part of a recent “series of actions” by Iran.

“So I’m not sure that this particular action is anything new or augurs anything one way or another for the new government,” he said, referring to the upcoming swearing-in of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, known to be a hard-liner.

Blinken added: “But what it does say is that Iran continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility when it comes to in this instance — threats to navigation, to commerce, to innocent sailors who are simply engaged in commercial transit in international waters.”

He said that the U.S., Britain and Israel are working together on a response.

Meanwhile on Monday, Iran warned that it will respond promptly to any threat against its security, a foreign ministry spokesman said, in response to accusations from the United States, Israel and Britain that Tehran was responsible for the off the coast of Oman.

Tehran has denied any involvement in the attack on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the incident as “clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping,” according to Reuters.

“Iran should face up to the consequences of what they’ve done,” Johnson told reporters on Monday.

Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador on Monday. Later, Iran summoned the British Charge d’ Affaires and Romania’s top envoy in Tehran over their countries’ “accusations against the Islamic Republic,” Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported.

An unidentified Iranian official told Iran’s Nournews news agency earlier that Tehran considered “the threats of Western officials and the Zionist regime (Israel) to be more of a propaganda gesture”.

“And Washington and London will be directly responsible for the consequences,” the official told Nournews, which is close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

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