Israel’s Navy Comes into Its Own

Historically, the Jewish state—threatened with invasion from north, south, and east—worried least about its western, maritime border. As a result, the navy received less attention from the government than the ground and air forces. Eitan Shamir argues that, with changing military and diplomatic realities, it is time to reassess:

Despite its inferiority in size and resources (and possibly because of it), the Israeli navy proved to be innovative in doctrine and technology. It was the first navy to base itself entirely on missile boats and the first to win a sea battle using them (against Russian-made missile boats in 1973). Throughout its existence, the navy has introduced many innovations and gained considerable operational experience.

The new geostrategic threats that are driving naval force development and doctrinal changes can be divided into [a few] categories. The first is the growing capability of other navies in the region—above all that of Iran, but also countries such as Egypt and Turkey, which could become hostile in certain scenarios. The second has to do with the navy’s recent assignment to protect the huge deposits of natural gas that were discovered in Israel’s [maritime] exclusive economic zone. These rigs are under constant threat of missile attack by Hamas and Hizballah.

The third is the constant and ever-growing threat of barrages of increasingly precise missile attacks by Iran and its proxies in the region. The navy can add strategic depth to Israel’s limited land mass, and its missile boats and submarines can provide [important] redundancy and allow for enhanced capabilities, both offensive and defensive, against missile attacks.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israeli gas, Israeli Security, Naval strategy


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