Israel-Iran Conflict: The Hand That Fanned the Flames Now Seeks to Quell Them

April 17, 2021
As the Israeli-Iranian tit-for-tat continues, the big question remains: What does the U.S seek?

Hassan Rohani, second from right, listens to the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, last week.

Amos Harel writes in Haaretz 16.04.2021

During the holiday the New York Times cited an Israeli defense source who said Israel wants to calm things down with Iran and does not plan to respond to the latest Iranian attack on a cargo-ship owned by Israeli businessman Rami Ungar.

The ship, sailing in the Arabian Sea, was slightly damaged at the beginning of the week.

The Iranian attack, the third in about six weeks, came in response to a number of attacks attributed to Israel on Iranian vessels and took place after the Israeli attacks had been made public for the first time.

The NYT, unencumbered by Israeli censorship, could refer to the Israeli attacks as a fact, and report that Israel had asked for the Americans’ help specifically in protecting the last vessel to be attacked, Hyperion Ray. Perhaps this is why the ship was only very slightly damaged and could continue sailing.

The missile fired at Hyperion Ray followed three attacks attributed to Israel within less than a week. These consisted of a routine shelling on an Iranian arms delivery in Damascus, an explosion on a command vessel of the Revolutionary Guard in the Red Sea and an explosion in the nuclear facility in Natanz, which apparently disrupted the centrifuges’ uranium enriching activity for months to come.

Iran responded with an announcement that it was upgrading its uranium enrichment to 60 percent, probably in its other fuel enrichment facility in Fordow.

The explosion in Natanz, the second incident of its kind in about nine months, took place a few hours before the arrival of U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Israel for his first work visit.

Austin’s words and body language gave rise to the suspicion that Israel had not warned the United States in advance, thus causing a senior official envoy of the Biden administration acute embarrassment.

Kan, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, reported on Wednesday that Britain, France and Germany, the three European states partner to the talks on resuming the nuclear agreement with Iran, interpret Israel’s recent moves as intended to harm the Vienna talks.

The question is what the United States wants now. Austin, who referred to the nuclear issue only briefly, stressed the administration’s adherence to a peaceful solution. Last week the American intelligence community released the 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The report said Iran would continue to pose an ongoing threat to America and its allies’ interests in the region.

The report says “Iran will remain a problematic actor in Iraq,” “is determined to maintain its influence in Syria” and “will remain a destabilizing force in Yemen.”

“Iran will remain a problematic actor in Iraq, which will be the key battleground for Iran’s influence this year and during the next several years, and Iranian-supported Iraqi Shia militias will continue to pose the primary threat to U.S. personnel in Iraq,” according to the report.

However, the report states that the American assessment that Iran is not occupied now with the military aspects of the nuclear program, i.e. producing nuclear arms, remains unchanged. The Iranians abandoned some of their obligations in the 2015 nuclear agreement following the United States’ withdrawing from it in 2018, but their moves are reversible and they are keen to return to the agreement in exchange for having the sanctions removed, the writers say.

The Biden administration’s interpretation of the nuclear issue is very different from the rigid, alarmist line led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The moves on the ground, in addition to the different approaches, raise the potential for a public clash with Washington.
Meanwhile the question of Iran’s response remains hanging. Will Tehran make do with firing on vessels?

It has other means of hurting Israel, but it can also decide to stop its military moves, if it reaches the conclusion that an opportunity for a quick agreement with convenient terms with the Americans is within reach.

This article is published in its entirety.

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