How Israel Spirited Five Boats Out of France and Transformed Naval Warfare Forever

In 1961, the Israeli navy, seeking a way to overcome its small size and small budget, began research into an unprecedented idea: arming small craft—too small to be equipped with heavy cannon—with missiles. These ships could blow much larger ships out of the water, and sophisticated radar would give them a high likelihood of hitting their targets. After a decade of intensive research and development, Jerusalem contracted with a French shipyard to build the vessels, which the IDF would later arm and equip. But, after seven of twelve were delivered, Charles de Gaulle got cold feet.

Abraham Rabinovich tells the gripping story of how Israel snuck the ships out of France, and the even more gripping story of their first battle—by which time the Soviets had built missile boats of their own and given them to their Arab allies. And the IDF had learned that the Styx missiles on the Soviet vessels had nearly twice the range of those on their own:

Guessing at the electronic parameters of the Styx radar, the navy’s chief electronics officer, Ḥerut Tzemaḥ, [had] devised electronic countermeasures to divert incoming missiles. He also recommended as a backup rockets firing chaff—strips of aluminum that confuse radar. The efficacy of this anti-Styx umbrella could be tested only in combat. If he had guessed wrong, the war at sea would end quickly.

The first time the entire missile-boat flotilla engaged in maneuvers was the first week in October 1973. The boats returned to their base the morning before Yom Kippur, a day before the war’s outbreak. On the first night, four Israeli missile boats engaged three Syrian missile boats off the Syrian port of Latakia in the first-ever missile-to-missile battle at sea. The Syrians, as expected, fired first.

The Israeli sailors watched fireballs arcing into the sky and then descend straight at them. All knew that every Styx fired at an Israeli target until now had hit. The crewmen’s lives hung now on Tzemaḥ’s educated guess regarding the Styx. In the final seconds of their trajectory, the missiles succumbed to an unseen force tugging at them and plunged into the sea. The Soviet-built boats in the Arab fleets had no such electronic defenses.

The Israeli vessels off Latakia closed range and destroyed two of the Syrian missile boats with Gabriels as well as two other warships. The captain of the third Syrian missile boat, witnessing what happened to his comrades and with no missiles left, drove his boat onto the shore so that he and his crew could escape. In a reprise two nights later, three Egyptian missile boats were sunk near Alexandria.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Charles de Gaulle, IDF, Israeli history, Israeli technology, Naval strategy, Yom Kippur War


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy