Drone Launched from IRGC Base Targets Liberian-Flagged Oil Tanker

Credit: Pacific Zircon, David Potter/Handout via REUTERS

A statement released by U.S. Central Command on Thursday alleged on Nov. 15, an Iranian-made Shahed series drone attacked the Liberian-flagged commercial oil tanker Pacific Zircon in the Gulf of Oman. A BBC report citing a Western official stated the drone was launched from the IRGC’s Air Force regional command in the southeastern city of Chabahar.

Speaking to FDD’s Long War Journal, an Israeli official confirmed the drone was an Iranian Shahed-136 and was launched from Iranian territory.

A media statement posted by the Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping company which manages the Pacific Zircon said the ship was “was hit by a projectile approximately 150 miles off the coast of Oman at about 2136 LT on 15 November 2022.” The statement also noted the attack did not “cause injuries or pollution.”

Photos of the Pacific Zircon published by CNN shows wreckage of the drone and a hole in the hull of the ship.

Furthermore, the CNN article cited an Israeli official who downplayed media reports that the drone strike was an attack against Israel due to Eastern Pacific Shipping being owned by Israeli businessman Idan Ofer. The Israeli official noted the attack was “not against Israel” and was an “Iranian provocation in the Gulf” to “disrupt stability” and “mainly influence World Cup events.”

While there have not been known Iranian attacks against Israeli shipping interests since the summer of 2021, there were two separate incidents of Iranian Navy activity against U.S. Navy maritime drones in late Aug. and early Sep.

On Aug. 29, the Shahid Baziar, an IRGC support ship, seized a U.S. Navy maritime drone in international waters. U.S. military assets were dispatched to intercept the Iranian military vessel which led to the release of the drone.

On Sep. 2, the Iranian Jamaran destroyer was observed removing two U.S. Navy maritime drones from international waters in the Red Sea. The drones were eventually released when U.S. military assets were sent to the area and demands to have them returned were communicated to the Jamaran.

In recent years, Iranian naval activity in the Persian Gulf and surrounding areas has become a significant threat to commercial and military vessels operating in international waters. While the U.S. and Israel have operated against this threat, it’s clear from the attack on the Pacific Zircon that Iran has not been deterred and continues its malign activity in the maritime arena.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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