Iran's Revenge Is ... Seizing a Container Ship?

Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

Last week, Iran vowed bitter revenge after Israel killed senior IRGC commanders in an attack on their diplomatic facility in Damascus. Israel battened down the hatches and warned Tehran about "escalation," and the Biden administration moved military assets while warning the mullahs that the US would back Israel to the hilt. Everyone expected some sort of response this weekend, despite all the warnings.


Was this it?

Commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps rappelled down from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel Saturday.

Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the vessel, the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime. Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. ...

In previous seizures, Iran has offered initial explanations about its operations to make it seem like the attacks had nothing to do with the wider geopolitical tensions — though later acknowledging as much. In Saturday’s attack, however, Iran telling[ly] offered no explanation for the seizure other than to say the MSC Aries had links to Israel.

If that's the Iranian response to the Damascus attack, it's pretty weak sauce. That's par for the course with the mullahcracy, as the Times of Israel explains further:

For days, Iranian officials up to and including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been threatening to “slap” Israel for the Syria strike. Western governments have issued warnings to their citizens in the region to be prepared for attacks.

However, Iran in the past largely has avoided directly attacking Israel, despite it carrying out the targeted killing of nuclear scientists and multiple sabotage campaigns against Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has, however, targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces over the decades.


There's a reason for that. The mullahs have a brittle grasp on power in Iran, especially in the last two decades of unrest over their brutal oppression. The only way they can prevent a popular uprising is to project total control as a divine gift from Allah on their enterprise. If the Israelis (or anyone else) destroy their oil and nuclear facilities at home with impunity, then they will look impotent, which is not exactly the theology of their radical brand of Shi'ite Islam. 

Give credit to Biden in this instance for a rare case of getting it right. By warning the Iranians that he would defend Israel against an Iranian attack (and by implying that he would facilitate a counter-strike), Biden may have convinced the Iranians to stick to piracy. 

Assuming, of course, that this is their full plan for revenge.

Still, state-committed piracy is no laughing matter. The fact that the Iranians committed it directly rather than have their Houthi proxies do it for them is an escalation, even if it's limited enough to get Israel off the hook for a military response. In another telling moment, Israel demanded sanctions on Iran but didn't threaten direct action:

Tehran is conducting piracy and should be sanctioned for it, Foreign Minister Israel Katz says, after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

“The Ayatollah regime of Khamenei is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz says. “I call on the European Union and the free world to immediately declare the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now.”


That may make things awkward for Biden again, who has been playing footsie with the mullahs in Tehran for three years. Both Biden and the EU desperately want to normalize relations with Iran, mainly due to Iran's oil, and despite the fact that the mullahs are funding terror networks throughout the region. The funds released by Biden to Tehran alone likely fund operations against Israel by both Hezbollah and Hamas. But direct piracy in international waters without even a cover story can't just be overlooked ... even if everyone may be breathing a sigh of relief that Iran didn't do anything more stupid.

Yet, anyway. 

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos