The Israeli Navy Enters a New Era

Yesterday, the IDF tested an upgraded version of its fabled Iron Dome anti-missile system, including units that will soon be installed on its new Sa’ar 6 warships, the first of which arrived in Haifa in December. The new vessels, combined with the adoption of the Iron Dome to be used against maritime threats, represents a major step forward for Israel’s naval strategy. Yaakov Lappin explains why such a change is necessary:

Israel’s dependence on the sea has never been greater, and is set to expand even further in coming years. The Tamar offshore [natural-gas] rigs are located west of Gaza in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), while the Leviathan [rig] is off the Haifa coastline. The Karish and Tanin gas fields are located north of Leviathan in the Mediterranean Sea. The rigs deliver liquefied natural gas to the coast, where they are converted to electricity in power stations. Some 70 percent of Israel’s electric consumption is now based on natural gas.

Around half of Israel’s fresh water comes from the Mediterranean Sea via five desalination plants, with two more expected to come online in the next few years. The vast majority of Israel’s imports also arrive via the sea. [In short], the sea remains Israel’s longest border and its chief electricity source, water supply, and means of bringing goods into the country.

In 2013, Jerusalem ordered the navy to revamp its strategic concepts in order to keep up with its growing importance; the newly added technology is part of that new strategy, but so is a new focus on sea-to-land combat. Lappin writes:

[T]he 2006 Second Lebanon War made clear that it was time for the navy to update its doctrine. When [an Israeli] frigate was hit by a Hizballah shore-to-sea missile, the navy saw that things had changed. The arms race that flooded the region with precision-guided missiles and new types of rockets meant Israeli targets both on land and at sea faced a new level of exposure.

Hamas, for its part, is heavily investing in its naval commando assets—an investment that includes the construction of underwater tunnels used by Hamas scuba attackers.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Hamas, IDF, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Natural Gas, 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