Thursday, April 15

Tension grows between Iran and Israel after an incident with an Israeli ship


“It was an act of Iran, it is clear,” Netanyahu alleged about the double explosion suffered by a car transport boat in the waters of Omn, while the Iranian government accuses him of “historical obsession.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last November.AFP
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Tehern has vehemently rejected Israeli accusations of being behind the mysterious explosions that a cargo ship suffered in the waters of the Gulf of Omn last week. “It was an act of Iran, it is clear,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said earlier this Monday, a few hours after, in apparent response to the maritime incident, Damascus registered an attack with Israeli missiles on positions of pro-Iraqi forces in Syria.

Last Friday, the car transport ship MV Helios Ray, from Singapore, flying the Bahamas flag and operated by an Isarel company, suffered a double blast on his hull while sailing 44 nautical miles from Muscat, the Oman capital, and about 200 miles from the choppy Strait of Hormuz. According to various media, the crew was unharmed. The ship suffered no significant damage, although it had to dock in Dubi to be repaired.

The owner of the freighter speculated that the explosions could be caused by missiles or mines, as the damage affected the port and starboard waterline. Dryad Global, a maritime risk consultancy, opined that there was a “realistic possibility” that the explosions “were the result of asymmetric activity by the Iranian army.” During 2019, the US repeatedly accused Iran of being behind a series of mysterious explosions on ships near Hormuz.

“The Zionist regime [Israel] is the main cause of all the insecurities and instabilities in the region “the Iranian Foreign spokesman, Said Jatibzade, has reproached, denying any involvement in the explosions. “The Persian Gulf and the Omn Sea are indispensable security spheres, where Tehern will not allow terror,” added the spokesman, who also blamed Netanyahu for having a “historical obsession” with Iran.

Around a third of the oil consumed in the world circulates through Hormuz, to which must be added the importance of the ports that border the Persian Gulf and the Omnian Gulf. The latest incidents on this maritime artery, such as explosions and the Iranian detention of several vessels alleging the commission of crimes – those affected accuse them of having political reasons – have increased the cost of navigation insurance, which has an impact on the prices of products that transit through the Strait of Hormuz. Not surprisingly, given the regional tension peaks, various military missions have patrolled these waters in recent months.

This period of tension began in 2018 with the withdrawal of the US from the nuclear agreement it signed with Iran three years earlier, which would allow Tehern to enrich uranium to peaceful levels in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose financial penalties on Iran prompted the Iranians to respond with destabilizing price actions and renouncing their nuclear commitments. To this they will add exchanges of blows throughout the region, mainly in Iraq and Syria – with the participation of militias armed by Iran – which were on the verge of leading to an open war in January 2020.

In parallel, Israel has maintained its own pulse with Iran, focused on preventing it from obtaining military-type nuclear capabilities and settling close to its territories, something it considers a threat. Part of its strategy is to add regional rivals to the Iranians to its sphere of influence. Iran blamed the Israelis for the murder of the nuclear scientist Mohsen Fajrizade. That country is also believed to have been behind a fire at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facilities last summer. For its part, Israel has accused Iranian hackers of attempting to sabotage a sewage facility, and routinely bombard positions of the Guardian Corps of the Islamic Revolution and its related militias in Syria.

The arrival of Joe Biden to the US Presidency brought with it the possibility of restarting a fluid dialogue with Iran, despite the opposition of some Israelis who never looked favorably on the atomic pact. Nevertheless, prospects for rapid understanding are being consumed with persistent sanctions and in the midst of a disagreement between Iraqis and the United States on who should take the first step – lift sanctions, by the US, and revoke nuclear measures, by Iran – to restore the nuclear agreement and whether it should be expanded to address other issues or not.

This ‘impasse’ is giving rise to new incidents and the fear of a new escalation of tension, in the face of diplomatic paralysis. Russia has warned the European signatories of the nuclear pact – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – that the resolution they intend to pass within the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA), reprimanding Iran for the latest restrictions imposed on the nuclear pact. nuclear inspectors, “not helping the political process.”

European diplomatic sources have assured the ‘Wall Street Journal’ that Iran has rejected an offer from the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, of an “informal meeting” between the signatories and the US to address their differences. This has left Americans “disappointed”, according to the AP agency. In Tehern, where an electoral campaign is already underway for the presidential elections next June, Trump’s strategy of “total pressure”, prolonged by Biden, has left a trace of mistrust. This is likely to translate into victory for the candidate of a faction less likely to engage with the US after the experience of the nuclear deal. In this context, Iranian leaders are not openly in favor of sitting face to face with Americans -something that in itself entails great political wear- risking to return empty-handed.

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