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With Israeli Tanker Attack, Iran Risks a Deadly Escalation

Iran’s attack on an Israeli-owned cargo ship is a piece in a larger regional mosaic.

On March 25 when the Israeli-owned container ship MT Lori, on its way from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Mundra, India, was struck in the Arabian Sea by what were alleged to be Iranian missiles. No one on board the MT Lori was injured, “and the vessel was only slightly damaged,” managing to continue on its way.

What has been mostly a war of words, threats, and counter-threats between Israel and Iran has heated up recently. Despite U.S. overtures designed to help modify its bad behavior, Iran continues to cause mischief in the region. As Liberty Nation has reported, Iran’s bullying of its Gulf neighbors remains the chief stumbling block on the road to peace in the Middle East.  Within the last two months, Iran has resorted to more overt hostilities.

The Times of Israel explained that last month a blast from what was described as a limpet mine “punched two holes” in the side of the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman.

Reacting to that incident, according to a Reuters account published on the British news site DailyMail.com, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel, I am determined to halt it. We are hitting it in the entire region.” The Mullahs in Teheran did not hear Netanyahu’s strong words, apparently. Though Iran has not taken responsibility for the attack, few believe the action could be from any other country in the region.

Eve Young, a correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, quoted Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz regarding his country’s immediate intentions explaining: “We will need to keep investigating, but we can say for sure that Iran is attempting to damage Israeli infrastructure and to hurt Israeli citizens.” Gantz went further, opining that the MT Lori’s “proximity to Iran during the incident has strengthened the suspicions against Tehran.”

Tit-For-Tat

When Iran’s belligerence spills out into the Mediterranean, Israel responds.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

“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.”

As we learn from the WSJ’s account, Israel engaged “at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria” and has been using a variety of weapons “including underwater mines to strike Iranian vessels carrying Iranian cargo to Syria and other areas in the region.” The Times of Israel reports that some of the “alleged Israeli strikes” took place in the Red Sea and areas where Iranian shipping was carrying “Iran-linked” weapons shipments.

The Israelis justify these attacks on the basis that Iran has persisted in its circumvention of U.S. sanctions against Iran as well as “international sanctions against Syria.” With Syria in the picture, the hostilities between Israel and Iran are joined by the U.S., who recently attacked Iran-backed militia groups in Syria.

Drawing In the US

The Biden administration authorized the airstrikes. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin described the bombing of Iran-backed militant groups responsible for rocketing U.S. installations in Iraq this way: “[W]e’re confident in the target we went after; we know what we hit. We’re confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes.”

And so it goes in the Middle East. Iran-supported attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq prompt a U.S. response in turn. Israeli attacks on Iran ships in the region result in Iran attacking Israeli cargo ships. The Iranian attack on the Israeli cargo vessel will result, no doubt, in an Israeli response. The rub for Iran is that though it seems willing to play the troublemaker, the outcomes never seem to work in its favor, and it is a dangerous gambit for Iran and the region.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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Read more from Dave Patterson.

Read More From Dave Patterson

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