Archives‎ > ‎

Peter Myers Digest: Biden reins in Israeli attacks on Iranian ships condoned by Trump

(1) Israel covert war on Iran had Us support (under Trump)(2) Israel has attacked at least a dozen Iranian ships bound for Syria - WSJ(3) The WSJ report was leaked by Biden gov't, to rein in Israel(4) Israel launched several dozen attacks on Iranian ships - Haaretz(1) Israel covert war on Iran had US support (under Trump) and Iran tensions spiraling into a direct confrontationby Vladimir Platov	on 02 May 2021Against the background of a possible return of the United States to a "nuclear deal" with Iran, Tel Aviv has recently demonstrably intensified the actions of its intelligence services to undermine Tehran's nuclear program and damage not only this industry, but the Islamic Republic as a whole. And at the same time, Israeli officials make no secret of their displeasure with US President Biden's desire to revive the nuclear agreement that his predecessor abandoned in 2018. On April 11, Benjamin Netanyahu said that the fight against Iran and its "satellites" as well as against Iran's arms buildup is the "enormous task" of the Jewish state.Considering Iran its main adversary, Israel has previously sabotaged Tehran's nuclear facilities and developments in a variety of methods, from cyber-attacks to direct assassinations, including eliminating a number of Iranian nuclear scientists and ambushing a key developer of its nuclear program last November.And in its subversive actions against Iran, Tel Aviv has always had the support of Washington, with a long history of clandestine cooperation to disrupt Iran's nuclear program, starting with the administration of President George W. Bush. Perhaps one of the most famous operations in this collaboration, codenamed "The Olympics," was the cyber-attack during the Obama administration. As a result, about a thousand centrifuges at Iran's Natanz nuclear center were taken out of service, which set back Iran's uranium enrichment program for many months.And now, on April 6, another round of confrontation took place in the form of an ongoing undeclared naval war between them: near the coast of Djibouti in the Red Sea, the Israeli military, according to The New York Times, initiated a mine assault on the Iranian ship Saviz. As reported by the Iranian party, the ship was deployed in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to ensure the maritime security and protection of the Iranian commercial vessels from the pirates operating in the region, serving as a "logistical hub" for Iran in these areas. It should be recalled that, as The Wall Street Journal reported in March, Tel Aviv has already carried out strikes against at least 12 Iranian ships since 2019, particularly those transporting petroleum products to Syria.However, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz claims that The Wall Street Journal revealed "only the tip of the iceberg of the economic war Israel has waged against Iran over the past two and a half years," as during that time there have been several dozen attacks on tankers that were shipping petroleum products from Iran to Syria in circumvention of US and EU sanctions. As a result, Israel points out, the Iranians have suffered billions of dollars in damages. It is noted that Iranian ships were attacked at various points all the way from the Red Sea to the Syrian coast.In addition to the Saviz incident, there was another man-made accident at Iran's Shahid Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility in Natanz on April 11, which, according to The New York Times, was claimed by American and Israeli intelligence officials. Under these circumstances, Tehran once again faced an extremely difficult choice of responses to let Israel know that no attack will go unnoticed. Understandably, Iran must find a way to ensure that its retaliation does not block the West from reviving the nuclear agreement.On April 12, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Iran intends to avenge Israel for sabotage of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant: "Iran's response to this incident will be revenge at the right time and place. If the goal of this scheme was to weaken Iran's nuclear power, it will be the other way around. We will replace the failed IR-1 centrifuges with more advanced ones." At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the US must stop using economic and nuclear terrorism as leverage over Iran in the current negotiations on the nuclear program.Realizing the reality of Iran's retaliation against the Israeli secret services, the General Security Service (Shabak) and the Mossad issued a warning to its citizens on April 12 about Iranian secret service activity on the Internet to allegedly organize the kidnapping or murder of Israelis abroad. However, it should be clarified that Iran has never kidnapped its opponents, while it was Israel that actively used such methods, kidnapping and killing not only Iranian nuclear scientists, but also a number of political figures.Only couple of days later, on April 13, the Iranian news agency FARS, citing unofficial sources, reported that in northern Iraq, "a group of armed men" attacked an information and operational intelligence center belonging to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, killing and wounding several Israeli soldiers.On April 13, it also became known that the Israeli ship Hyperion Ray was attacked near the UAE coast and sustained minor damage. Arab media speculated that the attack on the Israeli intelligence center in Iraq and the Israeli ship might have been Iran's response to the attack on the Natanz nuclear facility and other recent subversive activities by Israeli intelligence.In spite of this, Israel continued its undeclared military action against Iranian tankers carrying oil to Syria. Thus, on Saturday, April 24, a fire broke out on a ship carrying oil off the Syrian coast near the town of Banias. According to SOHR, three people were killed in the explosion. In order to avoid further aggravation of the undeclared sea war between Tel Aviv and Tehran, Russia has decided to protect the Iranian oil tankers and other vessels with various cargo for Syria, as reported to the public by the Israeli TV channel 9TV, citing the DEBKAfile website, specializing in military intelligence.The other day the Israeli Air Force once again attacked Iranian bases in Syria. In response, "unknown units" fired primitive Soviet-design anti-aircraft missiles toward Israel, one of which landed about 30 kilometers from the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona.The recent escalation of confrontation between Israel and Iran is of great concern not only in the Middle East region, because it could eventually lead to direct military action against each other. But their threat is also exacerbated by the fact that the two countries are increasingly involving their nuclear facilities in the zone of mutual actions, which can have very serious consequences not only for the countries of the region, but for a large part of the world as well.Today both of these states have already shown that they can attack each other's nuclear facilities without much trouble. But while an Israeli attack, at the current level of development of Iran's nuclear program, would cause less catastrophic damage, Iran's damage to the Israeli nuclear center in Dimona would have grave consequences by damaging the plutonium reactor at the facility.In these circumstances, the need to stop the promotion of such a confrontation between Israel and Iran has never been more urgent for the world community. The United States and the world at large must take the necessary steps to prevent Israel from encouraging its provocative actions against Iran and its over a decade-long attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and nuclear scientists, and resolve all problems through negotiation processes, including the renewal of the nuclear deal.Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook". Courtesy(2) Israel has attacked at least a dozen Iranian ships bound for Syria - WSJ Strikes Target Iranian Oil Bound for SyriaCampaign against ships, using mines, shows an expansion of hostilities in the MideastThe Biden administration's first known military action was an airstrike on facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups, in response to earlier attacks against U.S. forces. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was confident the U.S. had hit its target. (First published 2/26/2021) Photo: Alex Brandon/Associated PressBy Gordon Lubold, Benoit Faucon and Felicia SchwartzUpdated March 11, 2021 3:04 pm ETWASHINGTON—Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East, U.S. and regional officials say, in a new front in the conflict between Israel and Iran.Since late 2019, Israel has used weaponry including water mines to strike Iranian vessels or those carrying Iranian cargo as they navigate toward Syria in the Red Sea and in other areas of the region. Iran has continued its oil trade with Syria, shipping millions of barrels and contravening U.S. sanctions against Iran and international sanctions against Syria.Some of the naval attacks also have targeted Iranian efforts to move other cargo including weaponry through the region, according to U.S. officials.The attacks on the tankers carrying Iranian oil haven't been previously disclosed. Iranian officials have reported some of the attacks earlier and have said they suspect Israeli involvement.Israel hasn't commented previously on such incidents and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office referred questions to the Israeli military, which declined to comment on any Israeli role in the attacks on the Iranian ships. Iranian officials at the country's United Nations mission didn't respond to a request for comment.(3) The WSJ report was leaked by Biden gov't, to rein in Israel Behind WSJ Report of Israeli Attacks on Iranian Ships Likely American MessageDANIEL SONNENFELD03/14/2021The US intends to send a message of goodwill to Iran, caution to Israel, expert saysThe Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday that Israel had attacked at least a dozen Iranian ships since 2019. On Saturday, Iranian sources blamed Israel for an explosion last week that rocked an Iranian ship in the Eastern Mediterranean. This follows an on an Israeli-owned ship, which Israel blamed on Iran. Neither country wants a direct confrontation, experts explain, but the lack of a decisive response by Israel may lead to escalation.The Wall Street Journal report said Israel was behind a string of attacks targeting Iranian ships, which were carrying oil and weaponry to Syria. It quoted US and regional officials as saying at least 12 ships were attacked since 2019. They said Israel was concerned that the funds received for the cargo would be used to finance extremism in the region.Omer Dostri, a strategy and national security expert, and researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, has researched Iran's navy and maritime activity. "It is more than likely that these are Israeli attacks," he told The Media Line, referring to the alleged attacks of the past two years.Dostri explained that "Israel certainly has both the incentive and the ability to act in the area close to Syria," as well as in the Red Sea, where some of the attacks took place. "We know that Iran is trying to transfer both oil and weaponry via the sea to Syria and to Lebanon, for the simple reason that its attempts to transfer weaponry through Iran to Iraq, and from there to Syria and Lebanon, have run into difficulties," he said, referring to reported Israeli attacks on Iranian transports and arms depots.Iran, he said, "is trying to find a different route to arm or strengthen its allies, be it the Syrian regime, Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Shi'ite militias in Syria." Dostri believes that Iran's involvement in Syria in recent years, and its efforts to strengthen its local allies –increasing the threat on Israel – is the motivation behind the attacks, if Israel is behind them.Dr. Yoel Guzansky, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security, stresses that these reports lack confirmation; Israel hasn't taken responsibility for the events. Speaking about the Wall Street Journal report, Guzansky told The Media Line, "These leaks, which point a finger at Israel, are intended to limit Israel's maneuvering room." "It's clear that these are American leaks, and their aim is obvious – it is an attempt to signal to the Iranians, ‘Here, we're acting against something that harms you, our intentions are good, we come with clean hands to the negotiations with you. We're even stopping the Israelis.'"It is uncertain, however, if this will assist the Americans in bringing Iran to the negotiation table. "It isn't clear whether they [the Iranians] are impressed by this. It is just one of those confidence-building measures used by the Americans in their relations with the Iranians."The leaks are also intended to send a message to Israel, Guzansky estimates. "They are drawing a line and telling Israel, ‘Don't cross it,'" he said. The researcher believes that the leaks may limit Israel's future ability to act. "If the administration is willing to leak a thing like this, that can harm Israel in a variety of ways," he says, "then there's a message here for Israel from the administration, which isn't positive."The Iranian trade of oil with Syria is in breach of international sanctions placed on the Syrian Assad regime, and US sanctions on Iran.A day or two before the Wall Street Journal report was published, an explosion occurred on an Iranian vessel in the Mediterranean. According to Reuters, on Saturday, an Iranian investigator pointed a finger at Israel, telling Iranian Nournews that "considering the geographical location and the way the ship was targeted, one of the strong possibilities is that this terrorist operation was carried out by the Zionist regime."The Iranian investigator said that the explosions last week could have been the result of projectiles fired from above. Dostri, however, believes the alleged attacks were most likely conducted by commando forces. "I don't know what happened," he stresses, yet "it can be assumed with high degrees of certainty that these would be the operations of naval commandos because of their secret nature." The explosions would then be the result of mines or explosive devices, quietly placed by commando teams.In recent weeks, Israel has blamed Iran for an attack on an Israeli-owned ship, the MV Helios Ray. Mysterious explosions on February 25 forced the ship, which was sailing in the Gulf of Oman, to backtrack and dock in Dubai for repairs. Also recently, Israel's Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said that Iran was behind the tar that has polluted Israel's shoreline, causing one of the worst ecological disasters the country has experienced. While the ministry provided some evidence linking the ship to Iran, no evidence has surfaced to substantiate the minister's claims. Israeli security officials were surprised at the minister's claims.This recent string of events and revelations has led to the retrospective identification of a maritime front between Israel and Iran – another arena in which the two countries quietly exchange blows. Dostri explains that the pair have chosen this indirect method of action "because they aren't interested in reaching a direct confrontation," which would exact a very high price for both.However, the security expert believes that things may escalate now. The attack on the Helios Ray was an Iranian response to Israeli operations, an escalation intended to send a message to Israel. And "if Israel fails to respond, or if it takes it too much time," he says, "then the Iranians will see that ‘we've escalated against Israel, and it isn't responding – we can now escalate further.'" Dostri believes that only a "forceful, direct" answer from Israel will send a clear message to the Iranians, and stop a possible escalation between the adversaries.(4) Israel launched several dozen attacks on Iranian ships - Haaretz Attacked Dozens of Iranian Tankers, Tehran Lost BillionsA deep dive into Israeli-Iranian naval warAmos HarelMar. 22, 2021The report in the Wall Street Journal a week ago apparently uncovered only the tip of the iceberg of the economic warfare that Israel has been waging against Iran for the past two and a half years. According to the Journal, Israel has systematically scuttled maritime oil smuggling from Iran to Syria by striking at least 12 ships. That effort, according to American sources, is intended to disrupt the use of the funds paid for the oil smuggled to Hezbollah in order to purchase combat materiel.The Journal noted that it also drew on additional sources, including intelligence sources in the Middle East. The first leak may have come from the Biden administration, aimed at neutralizing background noise which the Americans think might soon hamper the renewal of negotiations with Iran about the United States' return to the nuclear agreement.An investigation by Haaretz reveals that the report last week reflects only part of the broad picture. In practice, it appears that several dozen attacks were carried out, which caused the Iranians cumulative damage of billions of dollars, amid a high rate of success in disrupting its shipping.Each shipment could include a million or more barrels of oil, worth up to about $50 million, according to fluctuations in the market price. The ships set out from ports in southern Iran and cross the Red Sea, navigating the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean. There were also cases in which a longer route was used, which involves circumnavigating Africa and passing through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, in order to evade attacks in the Red Sea. The port of destination is usually Banias, in northern Syria, which lies between the two largest ports on the Syrian coast, Tartus and Latakia.The smuggling route was detected by Western intelligence organizations back in 2018. The trade in oil is intended to bypass the restrictions on international trade which were imposed on both Iran, against the background of its nuclear project, and on Syria, in response to the atrocities perpetrated by the Bashar Assad regime during the country's civil war. The Israeli intelligence community, along with intelligence organizations in the West, realized that the Iranians had found a way to go on financing arms for Hezbollah. The money was transferred to the Lebanese organization mostly through the mediation of Syrian businesspeople, in return for the delivery of the Iranian oil to the Damascus regime.The ships were apparently struck at many different points along their whole route, from the Red Sea in the south to the Syrian coast in the north. In one case, the Iranians alternately accused Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia when a ship carrying an oil shipment was damaged by an explosion in the Red Sea, opposite the coast of Yemen, in October 2019. It's likely that in a large number of the other incidents, quiet acts of sabotage were carried out that damaged critical functions of the ships without this entailing the detonation of a bomb or the firing of a missile. In some cases ships were destroyed beyond repair, and the Iranians had to tow them back to the home port.What arises from the reports is that the attacks did not include harm to those who were on the ships, or the sinking of ships, and did not cause environmental damage.Because those behind the operations seem to have wanted very much to act below the radar and not publicize the strikes, no overt takeovers were carried out, as in past commando operations by the Israel Navy. Takeover operations were mounted against weapons ships that were on the way from Iran to unload cargos opposite the coast of the Gaza Strip or Lebanon (Karine A in 2001, Francop in 2009, Klos C in 2014), or in the course of preventing solidarity operations by international left-wing organizations with the Palestinians, notably the botched, fatal episode of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in 2010.The legal justification behind the scuttling of the oil smuggling could rest on the argument that Iran is using the profits to underwrite weapons purchases by terrorist organizations. To date, Israel has not been required to present such proof. In July 2018, Britain stopped an Iranian oil tanker on its way to Syria when it sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar. A week later, Iran responded with a threatening operation against a British tanker in the Persian Gulf – and the British quickly released the Iranian vessel they had detained.At the end of February this year, a cargo ship was damaged in the Gulf of Oman, apparently by the detonation of mines. The ship was partially owned by a company belonging to the Israeli businessman Rami Unger. That looks like a first Iranian signal of its ability to respond to operations attributed to Israel. Still, the damage caused was minor: there were no Israeli citizens aboard, and the ship was carrying a cargo of cars between Saudi Arabia and the Far East.Besides comprehensive and precise intelligence gathering, such an extensive operation of striking at oil ships as is attributed to Israel naturally requires an all-out effort by the navy, with its fleet of submarines, missile boats and naval commandos. The number of certificates of merit and excellence handed out in recent years by the Israel Defense Forces to navy units might attest to the scope of the operations.All these actions, as well as reports of Israeli maritime activity against arms smuggling to Hezbollah and to the Gaza Strip within the framework of the "campaign between wars" appear to reflect a considerable increase in offensive activity in the past few years. However, in contrast to air attacks, the Syrian government and Arab media rarely report the maritime incidents – and it's quite possible that for Israel, too, it's more convenient for such events to take place mostly below the radar.The extensive offensive activity completes a gradual conceptual revolution undergone by the navy under its present commander, Vice Admiral Eli Sharvit, who this year will conclude a five-year stint in the post. The new insights began to take shape back in the summer of 2006, following the attack on the missile boat Hanit on the third day of the Second Lebanon War. But it took too many years before the conclusions led to the fomenting of a revolution in building Israel's maritime force.The Hanit was hit opposite the coast of Beirut by a shore-to-sea missile fired by Hezbollah while Israel was enforcing a showboat maritime siege that was pretty much superfluous. Four IDF soldiers were killed by the Chinese-made C-802 missile. The attack showed that the Israeli effort to achieve maritime superiority by means of detection capabilities and advanced sea-to-sea munitions was largely irrelevant in the face of Hamas and Hezbollah. Neither adversary has a naval fleet: Their main threat derives from shore-fired weapons. The Hanit was hit because the navy was unable to identify the threat facing it from the shore and strike first to destroy it. The navy, despite its might and sophistication, was vulnerable to its direct enemies, whereas their firing systems were almost immune to strikes.The change that was needed, which was implemented in recent years, included the establishment of a maritime fire system capable of hitting shore-based targets, and diverting part of the intelligence resources to collect far more information about targets on the shore. Concurrently, Israel became occupied with protecting its economic waters, entailing the defense of natural gas assets against attacks from the shores of the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.These changes will also have implications in the event of war: The navy will have to scuttle the enemy's offensive capability from the shore as one of its first goals in a conflict. In the meantime, in the period of the campaign between wars, it is apparently gaining experience in more comprehensive operations in the past few years, as part of an overall campaign – against Iranian oil smuggling to Syria, weapons smuggling to Lebanon and Hamas's efforts to upgrade its naval commando capabilities in the Gaza Strip.