Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ naval forces have proven their ability to carry out attacks such as the one we witnessed on Friday in the Gulf of Oman against an Israeli-owned cargo ship. We can assume it was also responsible for this latest attack. While the attackers could have easily sunk the ship, it seems their goal was to cause damage without incurring any casualties.
The attack didn’t take Israeli officials by surprise. The ayatollahs’ regime has suffered painful blows both across the Middle East and inside Iran in recent years and has been seeking revenge for quite some time. Friday’s attack fits the bill while allowing Tehran to maintain a low profile. Although the Iranians opted for a civilian and not a military target, it is doubtful Israel will act to change the status quo.
However, Israel now has an opportunity to leverage the event in the diplomatic arena, in particular with the U.S. administration, which is now busy formulating its policy on Iran. Following an initial month that saw the White House display alarming weakness in the face of Iran, it seems it is now ready to deal with reality. We saw the first signs of this on Thursday night when the Americans hit Iranian targets on Syrian soil in response to an attack by pro-Iranian militias on American targets in Baghdad.
Israel is also interested in restricting Iran’s activities in the region. This kind of attack on a civilian target could aid in that effort, by blackening Iran’s reputation and demonstrating negative influence on the region.
The name of the game in this effort is intelligence. Just like with the nuclear program, Israel needs to get to Washington, and other relevant capitals, to present officials with facts and testimonies. There is an abundance of such material on Iran’s nuclear program, violations and deceptions, and, one can assume, on Friday’s attack in the Gulf of Oman as well.
It’s unlikely this diplomatic-intelligence process will thwart Iranian aggression. Ever since the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, Iran has carried out quite a few acts of aggression, including against Western maritime targets. Israel must now ensure this is an isolated event and not the start of a broader campaign. At any rate, it must increase surveillance, monitoring and security of Israeli and Israeli-owned vessels.
Israel must now decide whether it wants to retaliate, and if so, how. At any rate, the Iranian front has been consistently managed across a variety of sites and various means; despite this most recent event, Israel is still far in the lead. Moreover, Iran’s latest move seems to have provided Israel with a significant political opportunity.
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.