Iran’s Recent Attack on an Israeli Vessel Has Revealed Israel’s Maritime Vulnerability

March 4 2021

Last week, the Helios Ray, a ship owned by an Israeli company, was struck by a missile fired either by the Iranian military or one of its many proxy groups. Alex Fishman comments:

Whoever dispatched a missile at the cargo ship could have launched multiple missiles that would have caused far greater damage. But that would have been considered an act of war by the United States and all other nations responsible for safe travel in the Gulf waters.

The Helios Ray sails under the Bahaman flag, is not registered in Israel, and is not manned by an Israeli crew. Unlike Israeli vessels flying the Israeli flag, the cargo ship was not protected by the country’s security services. Iran’s efforts to hit vulnerable Israeli targets on the high seas are not new and have intensified since the assassination of the Islamic Republic’s chief nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November.

The vessel that was targeted last week belongs to a company owned by the Israeli businessman Rami Unger. This fact is displayed on maritime websites along with other details about the ship, which always uses the same route when it makes its way to the Far East. The boat left the southern Israeli port of Eilat in early February, carrying cargo for Saudi Arabia and Dubai, and was likely under surveillance since then. It was attacked as it entered the Gulf of Oman, an advantageous location for Iran’s navy, to convey a message to Jerusalem that Israeli interests in the area could be compromised.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran, 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