US considering ‘next steps’ as it warns Iran it will respond to deadly attack on oil tanker in international waters

‘RESPONSE FORTHCOMING’: The United States says “an appropriate response … will be forthcoming” after a drone attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea that the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Israel are blaming on Iran.

“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Sunday. “There is no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior. These actions threaten freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce, and the lives of those on the vessels involved.”

Blinken said the U.S. is consulting with allies in the region about “next steps,” and he said the Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street was “a commercial ship that was peacefully transiting through the north Arabian Sea in international waters.”


THE ISRAELI CONNECTION: The Mercer Street is a Japanese-owned vessel managed by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company owned by an Israeli billionaire, according to the Washington Post. On its website, the company identified the two crew members killed as “a Romanian national and a U.K. national.”

Iran has denied responsibility for the attack, but Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his country has absolute proof of Iran’s involvement. “Once again we see that Iran threatens peace all over the world,” Bennett tweeted. “The more we stand together to confront Iranian aggression, the more effective we will be in putting an end to it.”

In a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Bennett said Iran would be held to account for the attack, while the Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. is considering new sanctions targeting Iran’s use of drones and missiles to carry out precision attacks.

Blinken consulted by phone with Israeli Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid yesterday. Blinken and Lapid “agreed to work with the United Kingdom, Romania, and other international partners to investigate the facts, provide support, and consider the appropriate next steps,” according to a statement.


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HAPPENING TODAY: Navy League begins its three-day Sea-Air-Space Symposium, which it bills as the “largest maritime expo in the U.S.,” this morning at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.

Among the first day’s speakers are Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. Gilday and Berger speak at 9:30 a.m. and Milley at 12:30 p.m. Both sessions will be streamed live on the Pentagon’s website.

See the full agenda for today at:

TALIBAN TARGETING CITIES: In Afghanistan, where the government strategy is to consolidate its forces to defend cities and population centers, the Taliban are putting the squeeze some of Afghanistan’s largest cities, “striking busy transit hubs and pushing front lines deep into urban areas,” according to reports from Kandahar.

Taliban fighters fired rockets over the weekend at airports in Kandahar and Herat, the second- and fourth-largest cities in the country, in an apparent effort to disrupt commercial traffic and airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force.

In an address to a special joint session of the National Assembly today, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that in the face of the unrelenting Taliban offensive, his nation faces “a great test,” saying the Taliban have no desire for peace. “The Taliban has changed only in that their cruelty has increased,” Ghani said, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News.

Ghani also blamed the U.S. for the recent battlefield reverses. “The reason for our current situation is that the decision was taken abruptly,” he told the parliament, adding that he had warned Washington the withdrawal would have “consequences.”


EXPANDING WHO QUALIFIES FOR US VISAS: In response to pleas from news organizations and nongovernmental organizations, the State Department has agreed to expand the categories of Afghan citizens who are eligible to apply for special immigrant visas to relocate to the United States and other countries.

The new guidelines would expand the pool of applications to include “current and former employees of U.S.-based news organizations, U.S.-based aid and development agencies and other relief groups that receive U.S. funding,” according to a statement released this morning.

“In light of increased levels of Taliban violence, the U.S. government is working to provide certain Afghans, including those who worked with the United States, the opportunity for refugee resettlement to the United States,” the statement says. “This designation expands the opportunity to permanently resettle in the United States to many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members who may be at risk due to their U.S. affiliation but who are not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa because they did not have qualifying employment.”

The new categories include:

  • Afghans who work or worked as employees of contractors, locally employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. government, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force or Resolute Support;

  • Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement;

  • Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or nongovernmental organization.

BACK TO NORMAL IN MANILA: The often combative Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to make nice with the Biden admin istration by rescinding a letter of intent to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement that allows U.S. troops to rotate in and out of the Philippines.

In February of 2020, Duterte had threatened to scrap the VFA in a move to downgrade the long-standing military alliance between Washington and Manila. But after a private meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week, Duterte reversed course. Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine national defense secretary, made the announcement at a joint news conference with Austin.

“After the meeting between Secretary Austin and the president, the president decided to recall or retract a termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said. “So, the VFA is in full force again; there is no termination letter pending, and we are back on track with your secretary to plan for future exercises under the VFA.”

Austin publicly thanked Duterte, saying, “Our countries face a range of challenges from the climate crisis to the pandemic. And as we do, a strong, resilient, U.S.-Philippines alliance will remain vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. A fully restored VFA will help us achieve that goal.”


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Taliban fighters strike airport in southern Afghanistan

Washington Examiner: US and UK accuse Iran of drone strike on oil tanker

Washington Examiner: Philippine president restarts Visiting Forces Agreement with US

Washington Examiner: House Democrat and GOP senator urge Biden to appoint Jeh Johnson to border czar role

Washington Examiner: Kinzinger expects ‘significant number’ of subpoenas issued in Jan. 6 investigation

Washington Examiner: US seizes tanker shipping oil to North Korea in violation of sanctions

Washington Examiner: Man charged for allegedly exporting controlled lab equipment to Iran

Washington Examiner: Veterans and Gold Star families could have free access to national parks

AP: Pentagon grappling with new vaccine orders; timing uncertain

Politico: Pentagon Won’t Require Vaccine For Troop Deployments, But Other Details Unclear

New York Times: As Fears Grip Afghanistan, Hundreds of Thousands Flee

Washington Post: As the Taliban closes in, Afghan forces scramble to defend prisons holding thousands of militants

Task & Purpose: An Afghan interpreter and his family are in grave danger and I can do nothing to help

Washington Post: An embassy wall falls, upending a rising Afghan diplomat’s career

AP: Breakneck pace of crises keeps National Guard away from home

The Hill: Up Next In The Culture Wars: Adding Women To The Draft

CNN: U.K.’s HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier Pictured In South China Sea

Fox News: U.S. Marine Quick Reaction Force Deployed Twice In Last 30 Days To Defend Embassies

USNI News: Navy Quietly Decommissions Littoral Combat Ship Independence

Breaking Defense: NSA Releases Security Guidance For DoD, Contractors On Public Networks

The Day: Electric Boat Christens Second Submarine Named For ‘Father Of The Nuclear Navy’ Hyman G. Rickover Heads Up, U.S. Navy: Russia’s Stealth Submarine Force Is Growing Fast The Air Force Wants to Retire the A-10 Warthog. Congress Says Nope. Need a Stealth Fighter? Can’t Get F-35s? Russia’s ‘Checkmate’ Is For Sale.

USNI News: Lawmaker Calls For New U.S. Maritime Strategy With Pacific Focus

Air Force Magazine: Maintenance Error Brought Down Eglin F-22, ACC Declines to Conduct Public Investigation Into Mishap

Air Force Magazine: Senate Confirms New Bosses at AMC, AFGSC

Washington Post: Army to memorialize Black soldier lynched on Georgia base 80 years ago

Washington Examiner: Opinion: How Putin’s cronies conceal reality via English courts

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Why Ukraine can’t join NATO



9 a.m. Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland — Navy League three-day Sea-Air-Space symposium opens with James Geurts, performing the duties of undersecretary of the Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday; Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger; Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Implementing a New Maritime Strategy,” with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.; and Bryan Clark, Hudson senior fellow.

3 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion on “the administration’s initiative dedicating $3.2 billion to speed development of antivirals for COVID-19 and other viruses,” with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci; and J. Stephen Morrison, director of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center.

5:30 p.m. S-115, U.S. Capitol — Senate Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee markup of FY 2022 appropriations.


7 a.m. Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. — Day two of the Navy League Sea-Air-Space symposium, with Gen. James Dickinson, commander, U.S. Space Command and others:

8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 1, with Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Zalmay Khalilzad, special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation; retired Gen. David Petraeus, former director, Central Intelligence Agency; Roya Rahmani, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.; Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; and more. See full agenda and register at

9:15 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Spacepower Forum: “The SASC version of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, particularly its implications for the Space Force, with South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, and Matt Donovan, director of the Mitchell Institute Spacepower Advantage Research Center. Video posted afterward at

9:30 a.m. G50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson for promotion to general and commander of the U.S. Southern Command.

10:30 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “Enhancing Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific,” with Patty-Jane Geller, policy analyst for nuclear deterrence and missile defense at Heritage; and Brent Sadler, senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology at Heritage.

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Gaining Advantage Through Mission Integration,” with retired Navy Adm. Scott Swift, founder of the Swift Group LLC; retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association; retired Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, executive vice president of Flyer Defense; Dan Patt, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Center for Defense Concepts and Technology; and Bryan Clark, director of the Hudson Center for Defense Concepts and Technology.

12 p.m. — Association of the U.S. Army Noon Report webinar: “Army Climate Change Initiatives,” with Jack Surash, performing the duties of the assistant Army secretary for installations, energy and environment; and Amy Borman, deputy assistant Army secretary for environment, safety and occupational health.


7 a.m. — Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Md. — Day two of the Navy League Sea-Air-Space symposium, with Adm. Karl Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard; Thomas Harker, acting Navy secretary; and others.

8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 2, with Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies; Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs; Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Stephen Biegun, former deputy secretary of state; Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; and more. See full agenda and register at

10 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Enhancing Security in the Black Sea: The Future of Security Cooperation,” with Elena Poptodorova, vice president of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria; and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center

12 p.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual discussion: “Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military,” with Kyleanne Hunter, commissioner at the Defense Department’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military; Kayla Williams, commissioner at the Defense Department’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military; Andrew Morral, senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation; Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up; and Katherine Kuzminski, director of the CNAS Military, Veterans, and Society Program.


8:45 a.m. — Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress virtual discussion: “Transforming the U.S. Military for an Era of Great Power Competition,” with Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

10 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Nuclear Deterrence forum with Gordon Chang, East Asia expert, and author of numerous books on China; and Rick Fisher, senior fellow on Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. Video posted afterward at

11 a.m. — United States Institute of Peace virtual discussion: “Pakistan’s National Security Outlook,” with Pakistani National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf.

4 p.m. — Washington Post Live discussion: “UFO” a conversation with Mark Monroe, one of the directors of the Showtime series “UFO,” and UFO expert Greg Eghigian, Ph.D., professor of history, Pennsylvania State University.


2 p.m. 14th and F Streets N.W. — National Press Club Newsmaker Program with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. on “the Air Force mission in an ever-changing national security environment.” Live stream at


“We are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region … We are working with our partners to consider our next steps and consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the drone attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea last week.

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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: US considering ‘next steps’ as it warns Iran it will respond to deadly attack on oil tanker in international waters