Israel and Iran are engaged in a shadow war. It is a war like no other. It is a war that is waged behind the scenes and through the use of proxies. It is a conflict in which neither side takes responsibility for their military attacks. Israel and Iran are walking on tiptoe, delicately maneuvering so as not to escalate the situation and be forced out of the shadows and into an all-out confrontation.
Part of this shadow war is messaging. And Israel has sent a message to Iran and to her “friends.” The message is, surprisingly, as clear as can be given that this war is conducted in the shadows.
There are four parties to this message. First and foremost, of course, Iran. Second, the Muslim countries of the region. Third, Russia and China. And fourth, the United States. When it comes to Iran, Israel and the United States are no longer in sync.
Over the past few months Iran, presumably, has attacked two Israeli commercial ships in the region. The ships were hit above the water line — they were not shot at by submarines or torpedoes. They may have been hit by missiles. But there have also been reliable reports that the attacks came by way of limpet mines. These are land mines which are surreptitiously attached to a ship and then, sometime later, blow up.
Limpet mines would fit the modus operandi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). They have, in the past, used small rubber speed boats which zip under the radar and attacked large vessels. The IRGC has even attacked U.S. Navy ships in this manner.
In June of 2019, a U.S. naval ship in the Gulf of Oman was hit by these limpet mines. In fact, there is a video which shows the IRGC removing a mine from the side of the U.S. naval ship because it had failed to explode.
In response to that attack, President Donald Trump ordered an air strike. He had reached his limit. Fighter jets were dispatched, and as they were on their way to hit their targets, they were called back. The then-president’s advisers had prevailed and they had calmed President Trump down.
And so, when the Iranian vessel the MV Saviz was attacked, fingers pointed toward Israel. It was Israel, but Jerusalem will neither deny nor confirm responsibility and the Israelis do not leave fingerprints.
Israel needed to act. After all, two of their commercial ships had been attacked. And that’s when and why and how they sent out their message — their very strong message.
The damage done to the MZ Saviz was far greater than the damage that had been done to the Israeli ships. This was a surgical strike at the ship’s engine room. It totally incapacitated the ship. The MZ Saviz took on water in the engine room, but did not and will not sink. The damage allowed for the ship to be towed and fixed.
According to Iranian press releases, the MZ Saviz is a cargo ship. But to every country other than Iran, it appears to be a floating naval base. Tasnim, which is one of the official news outlets of Iran, is linked to the Revolutionary Guard.
They reported that the Saviz was in the mouth of the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aden, near the coast of Djibouti on one side and Yemen on the other, to "support Iranian commandos sent on commercial vessel (anti-piracy) escort missions."
Interestingly, in Persian, “saviz,” the name of the ship, means “friendly.” It is now out of commission for several months which will hurt Iran’s strategic obejectives.
Photos and videos of the deck of the MZ Saviz show the rubber boats of the IRGC. The Saviz is both a forward operating HQ and, at the same time, an intel gathering station. It most often moves slowly or remains stationary.
Among the many missions tasked to the ship is monitoring and directing Iranian operations in Yemen. It may look like a cargo tanker but it is hardly delivering cargo.
Israel’s message was as clear and precise as their method of attack. Israel controlled every aspect of the attack. This was not a random hit anywhere on any Iranian ship. The Israeli strike knocked out only what it needed to knock out. No one was injured and no one was killed.
The message to Iran is that Israel can and will strike them anywhere. They are not afraid to take military action at any time. And they will not be placated, pacified, persuaded or talked down by the United States.
The message to the region is that Israel is not afraid of Iran. They are not afraid to strike at Iran. Israel will protect their own interests and the interests of their allies in the region because Israel is the most significant, capable and precise force in the region. And unlike other countries in the area, Israel is not afraid to act.
The message to Russia and China is that if they want to be Iran’s allies, they need to rein Iran in. If they cannot or will not control Iran, the consequences — not only to Iran but also to Russian and Chinese interests, will be great.
The message to the United States is that the U.S. may want a nuclear deal and they may be scampering to resuscitate Iran and a return to the nuke deal, but that will neither limit nor will it influence Israel’s responsibility to defend itself and Israeli citizens and interests. And if that means attacking Iran and teaching Iranian leadership a lesson, so be it. Let that lesson be learned.
Israel is not impressed by the renewed nuke talks. Israel does not believe that an agreement — any agreement Iran signs — will be signed or carried out in good faith. Israel is wary of Iran — and weary of her shenanigans.
Israel is not afraid of Iran.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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