Why didn’t Tehran publicize Israel’s unlawful targeting of Iranian ships?

August 10, 2021 - 21:43

TEHRAN – In what appeared to be a shift in strategy concurrently with the change of government, Iran unveiled to what extent the Israeli regime had gone to harm Iran’s legitimate oil trade. 

In March of 2019, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a thinly-veiled, unusual threat against Iran that confounded many Iran observers worldwide. 

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Haifa naval cadets, Netanyahu accused Iran of circumventing U.S. unilateral oil sanctions through what he called covert oil smuggling over maritime routes. “To the extent that these attempts widen, the [Israeli] navy will have a more important role in blocking these Iranian actions,” Netanyahu said. 

This was the first tacit acknowledgment that Israel had been implicated in the unlawful, brazen, yet previously unknown, attacks against Iranian commercial ships first in the Red Sea and then in the Mediterranean Sea.

An Iranian news website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council published on Monday precise details about these attacks, which constitute a gross violation of international law as Israel had – and continues to have- no legal rights to enforce the unilateral sanctions of one country -i.e., the United States - against another sovereign country that is Iran.  


The Website, Nour News, unveiled that over the past two years Israel has launched a total of 14 attacks against Iran’s commercial ships, targeting 12 Iranian vessels in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The attacks began in the Red Sea and then spread to regions off the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea. The first attack took place on August 26, 2019, at the mouth of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea, where Iranian container ship Sharekurd came under attack. About three weeks later, an Iranian oil tanker was targeted near the Saudi port city of Yanbu in the Red Sea. 

Israel continued to attack Iranian commercial ships in the Red Sea, and by April 2020, it began striking in the Mediterranean Sea as well. On April 6 of that year, Iranian oil tanker Sahra came under attack off the Syrian coast. 

“The Zionist regime’s officials, implicitly or explicitly, claimed responsibility for many of these attacks,” Nour News said. 

According to the website, Israel conducted five attacks in the Mediterranean Sea and nine attacks in the Red Sea. Little is known about how Israel conducted these attacks and their damages. Some Western and regional media outlets claimed that in some cases Israel used commandos. 

And in April this year, a source familiar with the matter had told the Tehran Times that Israel also used helicopters to attack the Iranian ships. The Israelis would often attack Iranian commercial ships deep into the night using helicopters equipped with machine guns from a distance of many kilometers, the source said. 

Iranian officialdom kept all these attacks in the dark. This begs the question of why the Iranian government had refused to publicize Israel’s unlawful activities. Some may point to the previous Iranian government’s obsession with talks with the West. But announcing the Israeli aggression against commercial shipping could have signaled out Tel Aviv as a rogue regime threatening international navigation on the high seas. 

Ironically, Israel is now playing the victim and accusing Iran of posing a threat to international shipping. It is unrightfully doing exactly what Iran should have done based on solid facts and information.  

With the new Iranian president, Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, taking the reins in Tehran, things seem to have finally changed in terms of dealing with Israel’s malign activities. The first indication in this regard is the bombshell of Nour News itself. This website seems to have adopted a preemptory approach toward Israeli aggression. 

In the midst of Iran-Israel maritime tensions, Nour News reported Monday that a Dolphin-class Israeli submarine secretly passed through the Suez Canal on August 4 heading to the Red Sea. Two Israeli destroyers, the website continued, simultaneously passed through the Egyptian waterway possibly escorting the submarine. 

Nour News also cautioned that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet apparently intends to follow in Netanyahu’s footsteps in terms of pursuing malign behaviors. 

“It seems that the novice prime minister of the Zionist regime [Israel], by intensifying his rash and absurd moves, is getting more and more caught in a trap, the exit of which will certainly have very heavy costs for him and the inhabitants of the occupied territories,” Nour News warned.

Iran has understood by experience that turning a blind eye to Israel’s aggression will only embolden it. Therefore, the best way to deter it is to respond. Over the last few days, many high-ranking Iranian officials starkly warned that Iran will decisively respond to any mistake by Israel or its Western allies who accused Iran of attacking the Israeli oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in late July. Iran rejected the accusation and called on the West to look at the bigger picture which clearly shows who is the real victim. 

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