Iran targets commercial ship misidentified as Israeli owned

What happened: Over the weekend the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadin reported that Iran attacked an “Israeli” ship in the Indian Ocean.

  • According to the report the ship was anchored in the port of Jeddah before moving towards the coast of the Emirates. The report suggested that this attack was in revenge for a sabotage operation last month when a drone targeted a centrifuge manufacturing building at Iran’s Karaj nuclear site.
  • The ship has been identified as the Tyndall, a Liberian-flagged cargo ship that until recently been partly owned by an Israeli businessman, Eyal Ofer. However, his company sold its stake two months ago.
  • The Israeli satellite analysis company, Intel Lab yesterday released more details about the attack in Karaj.  Their satellite images claimed to reveal extensive damage to the structure at the site.
  • Yesterday Defence Minister Gantz addressed the Iranian threat, in which he said: “Israel will continue to take all possible measures to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and to thwart any escalation or attempt to harm the State of Israel on any front – air, land, sea and cyber. We will do so at the right time and place and will continue maintaining our qualitative edge.”
  • Gantz added: “We are also keeping an eye on Iranian activity in the Middle East and beyond – its progress in the nuclear race and its aggression, which undermine regional security and encourage an arms race. “

Context:  The targeting of the commercial ship was the fourth such incident attributed to Iran this year. However, on this occasion it appears Iranian intelligence was not aware the Israeli owner had sold it.

  • The production site in Kajar was likely assembling new centrifuges to replace the ones damaged in Natantz.
  • The Iranians had initially played down the significance of the damage to Karaj, but now appear to link it to the strike against the commercial ship.
  • The Karaj plant manufactured centrifuge blades and is considered a critical link in Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • If this was an Israeli attack, it would represent the first against Iran under Prime Minister Bennett and the new Mossad director, David Barnea, though it would have been planned months in advance.
  • In April, there was an explosion in the underground installation in Natanz. The bomb cut the electricity supply to the centrifuges, including the backup power source, causing significant damage.
  • Iran has been restricting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors’ access to its main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, citing security concerns following the April attack.
  • These developments follow recent high level diplomatic activity, with IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi and President Rivlin recently returning from meetings with the most senior defence officials in the White House and Pentagon to make the Israeli case against Iran’s nuclear project.

Looking ahead: Massimo Apapa, the deputy head of the IAEA, is expected to visit Iran in the next few days to demand an immediate response to whether Iran will honour the agreements allowing their monitors access to the nuclear site in Natanz.

  • The Bennett-Lapid government is expected to continue the commitment to increase funding to complete the IDF’s readiness for action.

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