Does Iran think Israel is vulnerable at sea?
What is important here is not necessarily the exact details of what happened, which may remain clouded, but the fact that pro-Iran media, and therefore the Iranian regime and its proxies, think Israel is vulnerable at sea. They don’t think Israel’s navy is vulnerable, but rather commercial shipping linked to Israel. This is because the July 3 incident is at least the fourth such incident in as many months.
What is known then is that these incidents appear to have unfolded near the Gulf states and not far from Iran. The messaging, if these incidents are all linked, would appear to be that Iran and its proxies have been looking at commercial shipping as a place they can carry out attacks.
This isn’t just directed at ships allegedly linked to Israeli ownership. Iran carried out mining attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman in May and June 2019. This is because Iran and its IRGC believe that striking commercial vessels is an easy way to send a message that also has plausible deniability. This is because Iran can do this clandestinely and not even sink the ships, but still cause an incident to take place. In fact it appears it is not in Iran’s interest to sink ships.
It believes in using proxies and pin-pricks to strike at enemies. That is why it ships drones and missiles to Yemen to get Houthis to die for Iran. That is why it ships weapons to Hezbollah and units in Syria, and aids Hamas, but doesn’t do the fighting itself. This is why it encourages Iraqi-based pro-Iran militias to fire 107mm rockets at American forces. Because a 107mm rocket is not likely to cause casualties, but rather to inflict damage and messaging.
Iran has done things like this before. It was likely linked to the attack on the Jewish AMIA center in Argentina in 1994. Hezbollah, and thus Iran, was linked to the Burgas bombing in 2012 in Bulgaria. Iran may have been linked to a New Delhi attack in January this year and attacks in Bangkok in 2014. There were also attacks in India and Georgia in 2012 after which Israel blamed Iran and Hezbollah.
This means that Iran has sought to target Israelis and Jews abroad and that it is possible it has now set on a new course of action against commercial shipping. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the February incident at sea. It is unclear if officials will point the finger at Iran again.