Alwaght- On Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz in a meeting of the Knesset’s Committee on Defense and Foreign Affairs announced that Tel Aviv will join the US-led sea coalition in the Persian Gulf. The stance comes while the Israeli regime has not even been invited to a regional military alliance. Iran, which argues the new bloc will only stir tensions in the region, has severely reacted to the Israeli announcement and warned the Israelis about the “consequences” of their decision.
The main reason behind Washington’s plan to build a sea patrolling alliance under the ruse of protecting the commercial ships is to raise an anti-Iranian diplomatic and military consensus. This has been Trump foreign policy’s biggest obsession since he pulled out of the nuclear deal in early May 2018. Many countries that the US pushed to persuade them to come on board, like Germany and Japan, turned down to invitation. Having in mind that Trump withdrawal from the 2015 agreement was meant to serve the Israeli interests, Tel Aviv, seeing Washington credit shattering, finally broke its strategic silence and said will be part of the alliance. Thus, the first drive was to strengthen Trump much of whose regional policy dedicated to the Israeli interests.
A year of Trump actions in West Asia brought many Americans and European diplomats to the conclusion that Trump is intentionally forging tensions in the region. At home, this showed itself obviously. In a Congress session, dubbed “responding to Iran”, after Iran air force shot down a trespassing American spy drone, named Global Hawk, over its territorial waters in the Persian Gulf last month, lawmakers warned the administration about taking wrong steps toward Iran. Additionally, on July 12 the 251 congressmen approved a bill prohibiting funding for military action against Iran without congressional consent. The suspicious attack on a Japanese vessel in Sea of Oman to fail an underway visit to Iran of Japan’s Prime Minister even further eroded the trust in Washington, to a degree that gradually even the UAE, a US ally, grew dubious about the American intentions to secure navigation.
Tel Aviv, watching the tensions unfolding was disappointed to see the US military deployment just for show off and was impatient to see a confrontation between Arab allies of Washington and Iran. Responding to a question about the American caution in the region, the Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi told an Israeli radio that “For two years now, Israel has been the only country in the world killing Iranians.” The remarks were meant to transfer the muscle flexing of both sides in the Persian Gulf to direct clashes. So, the second goal behind the Israeli joining the patrolling force is to cultivate a military conflict.
The third goal is to normalize diplomatically with the Arab countries and transform into an accepted active player in the region before the US leaves the region. Since Trump assumed the power as a president in 2017, the Israeli push for normalization doubled. In February, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Israeli Hadashot TV revealed that he visited four countries over 2018 and plans more visit in the future. Katz said that the participation in the coalition was part of the strategy to contain Iran and a boost of relations with the Arab states. Because the Arab states are under criticism for normalization, Tel Aviv uses Iranophobia to legitimize an Arab-Israeli thaw. Netanyahu openly pointed to this policy in an interview.
The fourth goal is to get a foothold in the vicinity of Iran in retaliation to Iran’s influence in Syria and Lebanon. Former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Arutz Sheva news website that the biggest challenge is the Iranian push to “encircle Israel” in a surprising way. Over the past years, Tel Aviv struggled to get security foothold in Azerbaijan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and now the Persian Gulf Arab states.
Navy and Israeli influence records
The total number of the Israeli navy vessels are 65, making it rank 37 worldwide. It has no destroyer. The regime has only four frigates used for coastal waters. At best, the Israeli navy can conduct limited operations around the occupied territories, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. It best facility is the Dolphin-class submarines that can launch cruise missiles with a 1500-kilometers range. They were made by Germany and supplied free to the Israeli regime for nuclear deterrence. So, the Israeli navy lacks the necessary facilities for an influential presence in a cross-border alliance.
In July 2009 and while Iranian-European tensions escalated, some Israeli media reported that Tel Aviv sends submarines to sea drills in the Persian Gulf. According to Arab media, a Dolphin-class submarine shortly after joined the Bahrain-based American Fifth Fleet “to watch Iran.” This class is not immune to detection and damage. In 2017, US Veterans News reported that an Israeli submarine that trespassed into Syrian waters for surveillance mission was destroyed by Syrian torpedos.
Iran’s sea power and deterrence
Dealing with sea challenges and the security of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has been developing its navy forces. In the late 1980s, the Iranian navy clashed with the American naval vessels in the Persian Gulf in several operations. To put an end to the war, the USS Vincennes warship shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing 290 over the Strait of Hormuz. With regard to Iran’s military and intelligence domination, the Israeli regime’s participation will only add to its navy susceptibility and endanger the other parties in the coalition as the Israeli presence in the Persian Gulf is Iran’s red line. Last week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted that Persian Gulf security is Iran’s national security priority and it will not hesitate to defend its security. He added that countering the Israeli presence is Iran’s right and that he did not expect the regional countries to welcome the Israeli participation in the alliance amid Tehran’s efforts to de-escalate the tensions. The Israeli regime has no oil imports from the Persian Gulf nor does it have legitimate interests in the region. So, understanding Tel Aviv’s ill intent is not difficult for regional countries.
In collective security regimes, the security of the sea normally preserved by regional states. This week, Iran’s defense minister in phone conservations with his Kuwaiti, Qatari, and Omani counterparts discussed regional cooperation bolstering to thwart the Israeli provocative measures. Analysts agree that Israeli hasty decision only promotes Iranian force and gives Tehran legitimacy to strike Israeli forces.
All in all, the Israeli naval weakness makes the decision to join the US-led alliance largely symbolic and propagandistic. At best, Tel Aviv will contribute intelligence to the coalition. Netanyahu appears to exploit this stance to win the hardline right-wing votes in the upcoming elections, set for September 17.