Israel fails to fish in troubled waters

August 1, 2021 - 21:34

TEHRAN – While Iran has strongly rejected allegations of involvement in a mysterious attack on an Israeli-operated oil tanker off the coast of Oman, Israeli officials seek to fish in the troubled waters of the region to create a united front against Iran. 

The recent alleged drone attack on the Israeli ship has led to wild speculations ranging from an Israeli “retaliatory” strike inside Iran to derailment of the already faltering nuclear talks between Iran and the West in Vienna. 

Israel seems eager to intensify these speculations by taking advantage of the attack and signaling out Iran as a threat to international security. This is while Iran strongly repudiated the allegations Israel leveled against it. 

The Israeli-operated ship Mercer Street came under attack off the coast of Oman on Thursday while traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. The oil tanker, managed by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime, was reportedly attacked by suicide drones. Zodiac Maritime said two crewmen, a British and Romanian national, died in the attack.

“With profound sadness, we understand the incident onboard the M/T Mercer Street on 29 July, 2021 has resulted in the deaths of two crew members on board,” the UK-based Israeli company said in a statement on Friday afternoon, a day after the attack.

No country claimed responsibility for the attack but the Iranian news channel Al-Alam said the attack came in retaliation for an earlier Israeli strike against the al-Dhaba’a airport in the Syrian city of al-Qusayr which killed two men from the Resistance.

The Iranian broadcaster did not identify the Resistance groups behind the attack.

But Israeli and Western intelligence sources pointed the finger at Iran, accusing it of carrying out a drone attack on the Israeli ship.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that Tel Aviv knows with certainty Iran attacked the Mercer Street ship and will respond to it. 

“I determine, with absolute certainty – Iran carried out the attack against the ship,” Bennett stated, according to the Jerusalem Post. “The intelligence evidence for this exists and we expect the international community will make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a serious mistake.”

He noted, “In any case, we know how to send a message to Iran in our own way.”

Bennet’s remarks came after Iran denied any involvement in the Thursday attack. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denounced the Israeli allegations against Iran, saying Iran had nothing to do with the attack.

“The illegitimate entity of the occupation regime in Jerusalem must stop leveling false accusation. This is not the first time the regime has made such accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khatibzadeh said at his weekly press briefing which was held a day earlier this week. “Wherever this regime has gone, it has carried with it insecurity, terror and violence.”

“Those responsible for the current situation are those who opened the door for the occupation regime in Jerusalem to enter the region,” the spokesman continued.

Khatibzadeh also warned the Israeli regime about continuing it projections, saying, “He who sows winds, reaps storms.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not hesitate for a moment to protect the supreme interests of the people and its own national security,” Khatibzadeh continued.

Despite this denial, Israel continued to threaten Iran with response while trying to use the attack as an excuse to undermine the Vienna nuclear talks which have been put on hold due to unresolved differences between Iran and the United States. 

The former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence, Division Amos Yadlin, called on Israeli officials to use the attack to influence the final version of the agreement between Iran and the West.

In a Twitter thread on Sunday, Yadlin claimed that Iran shot itself in the foot by killing two European nationals on board Mercer Street. He tweeted that Israel must politically leverage what he called “the Iranian terrorist attack” by addressing the Security Council and friendly countries, even when the international community is afraid to confront Iran and gives priority to the issue of a return to the nuclear deal, which is currently experiencing difficulties.

He added that it is important for Israel to continue its campaign while closely controlling the escalation, and to focus on the two critical issues for Israel's security - stopping the nuclear program and thwarting the precision-guided missile project.

To this end, Israeli officials contacted their counterparts in the U.S. and the UK in a bid to push the two negotiating partners of Iran to adopt a hawkish stance on Tehran. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid held phone calls with his foreign counterparts and instructed Israeli ambassadors in London, Washington and New York to send in meetings with relevant parties at the capitals and in the UN.

Israel began to push for a United Nations Security Council condemnation against Tehran for the attack.

The Jerusalem Post quoted a diplomatic source as saying that Israel is “working with other countries, especially Britain and the United States, and more to advance the Security Council's discussion on” the latest attack. 

Israeli media also pushed for exploiting the attack to influence the Vienna talks. The Israeli Army Radio said that both the political and military echelons in Tel Aviv are interested in exploiting the attack to give Israel political gains, and to push for accepting its positions regarding the conditions that must be met before returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran, according to an Al Araby Al Jadeed report. 

The radio pointed out that Israel has embarked on a large-scale political and diplomatic campaign, in an attempt to mobilize the international community against Iran and justify Israel’s allegations about Iranian expansionism in the region among the issues that the future agreement between Iran and the great powers must address.

Israel has been isolated on Iran ever since the nuclear talks began in April. It opposed the talks but its opposition to the Iran nuclear deal failed to prevent Washington and its European allies from starting talks with Iran.

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