Israel Can Use Iranian Attacks on Global Shipping to Its Advantage

Last Thursday, drones attacked a ship in the Gulf of Oman, killing two crew members. The ship is Japanese-owned and sails under a Liberian flag, but it is operated by an Israeli-owned company; one of the victims was Romanian, the other British. According to the governments of the U.S., the UK, and Israel, the Islamic Republic launched the drones from its own soil, apparently in response to IDF airstrikes on Syria last week that killed several Iranian soldiers. The attack marks an escalating maritime war between Jerusalem and Tehran. Yesterday, there seems to have been an attempted hijacking of another ship in the area, for which Iran is likely responsible as well. Yoav Limor assesses the situation:

Iran appears to have decided to try to create a new equation. . . . Instead of responding [to Israeli airstrikes] from Syrian soil through the use of its emissaries as it has done in the past, it chose to respond directly from Iran.

This shift is indicative of a number of things. Iran apparently believes it lacks the ability to respond effectively from Syria. The Quds Force, [the elite expeditionary branch of the Islamic Republic’s military], is also finding it difficult to maintain power in Syria ever since its commander Qassem Suleimani was assassinated by U.S. forces last year. . . . Most importantly, Iran feels confident enough to launch drones from its soil, something it has already done in the past, including in the attack on Saudi oil facilities in September 2019, and assumes it will not be made to pay a significant price for doing so.

Iran may have identified the ship as “Israeli” because of the citizenship of its owners, but for all intents and purposes, this was a Japanese-owned ship sailing under a Liberian flag. . . . Israel would be wise to use all of the diplomatic tools at its disposal to put the spotlight on Tehran. . . . At the same time, Israel must consolidate a clear policy on how it intends to respond should Iran continue these attacks. It must not accept the creation of a new deterrence equation in which everything Israeli or with ties to Israel around the globe becomes a target for attack, nor should it accept any limitations the Iranians try to impose on the air force’s offensive operations against their weapons smuggling in Syria.

Read more at Israel Hayom

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