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Israel-Iran war reaches deadly new level – analysis

CM 01/08/2021

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The latest attack by Iran on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman has crossed a deadly line in the war-between-wars waged by Israel, and could force the Jewish State to rethink its maritime strikes against Tehran.
The escalation between the two countries has been ongoing for years, with alleged Israeli attacks taking place at night. Other than those involved, most have been left in the dark about the damage caused by what Israel calls MABAM.
Unlike Israel, Iran has been striking targets linked to Israel in broad daylight. And on Friday, one of their attacks caused the first two civilian casualties in this shadow war.
With the deaths of the Romanian captain and British security guard on the MT Mercer Strike by a supposed suicide drone, the shadow war has now leveled up and will cause Israel’s defense establishment as well as the United States and United Kingdom to consider a harsh response against Iran.

Iran denied being behind the drone strike, but other actors in the region like the Houthis in Yemen rely on Iranian technology for their drone and missile arsenal.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel knows with certainty that Iran was behind the attack.
“I state here that Iran is absolutely the one that attacked the ship,” he stated. “The intelligence proof of it exists, and we expect the international community to make it clear to the Iranian regime that they made a serious mistake.”
Following the strike, Bennett spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, and agreed that it was a severe terror attack.
So how will Israel respond to the strike? Will it increase its target bank to also strike targets where civilians might be harmed or even killed? Or will it rely on diplomatic channels to hit Tehran, such as levying more sanctions?
When he served as defense minister under Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett argued that Israel should aim for the head of the octopus, Tehran, and not its tentacles – Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Israel has been carrying out its war-between-wars against Iran for years, focusing on weapons convoys from Iran to Hezbollah in Syria. And according to foreign reports, Israel began to attack ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the Mediterranean starting in 2019, when Bennett was sitting on the 14th floor of the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Bennett was combative when it came to Iran, and told The Jerusalem Post last year that he aimed to remove the Islamic Republic from Syria within a year.
“I have placed a goal that within 12 months Iran will leave Syria,” Bennett told the Post in an interview ahead of Israel’s fourth election. “Iran has nothing to look for in Syria, they aren’t neighbors, they have no reason to settle next to Israel, and we will remove Iran from Syria in the near future.”
During his tenure as defense minister, he said he had been working to escalate Israel’s steps against Iranian forces in Syria with the aim of getting Tehran to withdraw all of its troops from Israel’s northern borders.
But Iranian troops are still there; and now there are two dead civilians in the maritime MABAM between the two countries.
Israel’s strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets largely occurred at night in an attempt to reduce casualties, senior officials have said. Nevertheless, it is a war. And in war there are casualties, mainly fighters belonging to Hezbollah, Iran’s IRGC Quds Force, or from Shi’ite militias like the Afghani Fatemiyoun brigade.
Israel has also been blamed for several cyber attacks targeting Iranian infrastructure, from its nuclear program to its ports to Iran’s train system that caused chaos, and even listed the phone number of the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for passengers to complain.
While the MABAM has destroyed an immeasurable amount of advanced weaponry in Syria and has placed Iran on the defensive in the war-torn country, Israel should look again at its maritime operations targeting Iranian ships carrying oil and weapons to Syria.
How much do Israeli strikes against Iranian vessels contribute to stopping Iran’s entrenchment in Syria or stopping its nuclear program?  Are they enough to risk Israeli-owned vessels and civilians on the high seas where the Israeli Navy cannot secure them?
Israel’s Navy is relatively small compared with other IDF corps, and while it does have the ability to send its submarines far from its coast, it is unable to truly safeguard ships like the MT Mercer Street in places where Iran is able to send drones or carry out other attacks using limpet mines or fast boats.
Iran knew that targeting the ship would not lead to Israeli casualties, but it was signaling that it had escalated its side of the tit-for-tat strikes.
No ship remotely linked to Israel is safe from Iranian attacks, even with the US 5th Fleet nearby.
Unlike the MABAM taking place in the dark in Syria, Israel has to take that into consideration; and take into consideration that Iran has no qualms about targeting and killing more civilians.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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