Israel risks tensions with Biden by striking Iranian ships

Barak Ravid
·1 min read

Israel could be risking escalation with Iran and tensions with the Biden administration by continuing to strike Iranian ships — a risk that is exacerbated by Israel's political crisis and dysfunctional interim government.

Why it matters: An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ship was attacked in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen on Tuesday, the same day the Vienna talks opened.

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The backstory: Over the last two years, Israel has been engaged in a secret military campaign to sabotage dozens of Iranian ships and tankers which had transferred oil to Syria or missile parts to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

  • This campaign was kept under the radar until it was reported several weeks ago by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

  • Around the same time, the Iranians belatedly retaliated by attacking two Israeli-owned ships in the Gulf. Tuesday's attack was an Israeli response.

What they're saying: The Pentagon was quick to tell reporters that the U.S. wasn't involved in the attack, and U.S. officials later told the New York Times that Israel was responsible.

  • The Israeli government has been silent on the attacks other than general statements against Iran.

  • The attacks could complicate U.S.-Iran nuclear diplomacy and the Biden administrations efforts to end the war in Yemen.

What next: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is due in Israel on Sunday. The regional escalation with Iran will be one of the main topics in his discussions.

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