Iranian cargo ship The Saviz was left ablaze in the Red Sea yesterday after an apparent Israeli mine attack. The attack is the latest escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing between the rival Middle Eastern powers.
It came as US president Joe Biden tried to kick start talks with Iran on how to revive American participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers.
Israel vehemently opposed the agreement which was abandoned by then president Donald Trump three years ago.
The extent of the damage the ship sustained is still unclear but several Iranian news outlets showed images of flames and smoke billowing from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea.
Although technically classified as a cargo ship, it was the first vessel deployed for military use that is known to have been attacked in the Israeli-Iranian skirmishes.
However a US official told the New York Times that the Israelis had notified America that its forces had struck the vessel at about 7:30am local time on Tuesday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the paper that the Israelis had called the attack a retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels.
The tit-for-tat skirmishes have been going on for two years.
It happened as talks between Iran and other world powers began in Austria on Tuesday.
Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom are all holding in-person talks in Vienna to restart American participation in the talks.
Ahead of the meetings, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said that the “deadlock is being broken” on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a “childish” argument over who should act first comes to an end.
Despite the development representatives from Iran and the United States will not be in the same room.
This is because Iran insists there will be no direct or indirect talks between the two countries before the US lifts the harsh sanctions former President Donald Trump imposed after unilaterally abandoning the deal in 2018.
It is unclear how those sanctions will be revoked, or how many sanctions will eventually need to be lifted for Iran to make good on its promise of coming back to full compliance with the nuclear deal.