Undeclared naval war rages in Middle Eastern waters

Photo: West Asia News Agency, Iran

An undeclared naval war is raging in Middle Eastern waters, with attacks on shipping, particularly by drone aircraft, proliferating.

Recent attacks include the following:

  • February 25: Israeli-owned Helios Ray attacked in the Gulf of Oman
  • April 13: Unidentified Israeli ship attacked off Fujairah
  • July 3: Previously Israeli-owned Tyndall attacked in the Indian Ocean
  • July 29: Israeli-owned Mercer Street hit by at least one drone off Oman. Romanian Master and British security guard reportedly killed

Intelligence analysts believe that Mercer Street was probably struck by at least one Samad drone, a type which has a range of 1,500 kilometres and can carry a 30-kilogramme warhead, and is operated extensively by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) of Iran.

Also, reports indicate that the covert IRGCN vessel Saviz was attacked by mines in April, while rumours continue to swirl around the fire that recently destroyed the large Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) oiler Kharg at sea in early June (pictured).

Numerous reports from both Iran and Israel, furthermore, allege that multiple attacks by unidentified forces have been carried out on Iranian oil tankers conducting sanction-busting voyages to Syria.

Quite obviously, international shipping is potentially at risk from this undeclared naval conflict, and a co-ordinated multi-national response is urgently required.


Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.