How the Israeli Navy Is Fighting Hamas

April 4 2023

In 2014 and 2015, the Egyptian military, in close coordination with Israel, destroyed or blocked hundreds of tunnels used to smuggle arms, as well as consumer goods, into the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, Hamas’s only reliable way to get weapons has been by sea. Emanuel Fabian explains Israeli sailors’ efforts to stymie the flow:

The Israeli Navy’s Ashdod Base—which is tasked with the Gaza area—is overloaded with missions at sea while facing myriad threats from Hamas and other terror groups. The Ashdod Base has a massive area of operations, from Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border to an area much further north. Its 916th Patrol Squadron is mainly tasked with the region around Gaza, up to 40 nautical miles out to sea.

Attempts at smuggling via the maritime route from northern Egypt are believed to be frequent and are expected to only increase. . . . Over the past year, the Navy has been successful in foiling every smuggling attempt from Egypt to Gaza that it identified, though it believes there are some it did not catch and that Hamas is getting better at carrying them out.

Israel has maintained a naval and ground blockade on Gaza since 2007, when Hamas took control of the Strip from the Palestinian Authority through a bloody conflict that followed contested elections. Egypt also blockades the territory. . . . The blockade has had a particularly negative effect on fishermen, who cannot stray too far from the shore without facing the threat of Israeli fire. As a result, the shallow waters adjacent to the coast have been overfished, diminishing hauls, and thus profits, over time. Nonetheless, figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that Gaza fishermen have more than doubled their catch since the blockade was introduced—from over 1.5 million fish in 2009 to almost 4 million in 2019.

The fishing business is relatively profitable in the impoverished Strip, but helping Hamas smuggle in equipment is thought to be far more lucrative.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, 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