Arabian Sea: what lies behind the crisis between Iran, Israel and the United Kingdom

On July 29, a ship belonging to an Israeli was attacked, a Briton and a Romanian were killed. Israel blames Iran. Tehran denies it. Since then, the tension has been mounting.

Mercer Street, owned by an Israeli billionaire, sails in the Arabian Sea. It connects Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates when it is attacked by a drone Thursday, July 29. American boats which are in the area testify.
Result: two dead , a British employee of the Ambrey security company and a Romanian crew member.

Israel and the United Kingdom then accuse Iran of being behind the attack. Tehran formally denies. Since then, the tone has risen. Throughout the weekend and on Monday, Israel called Iran  “an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability . ” The Hebrew state says it has evidence of Tehran’s involvement. “Unfounded” accusations , according to Iran, which says it  “will not hesitate to defend its interests and national security.”

The United States threatened an “appropriate and imminent response” . On the night of Monday to Tuesday, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, promised ” a collective response “. Israel calls for UN action
Britain has summoned the Iranian ambassador to London. Iran’s actions  “endanger regional and international peace and security ,  British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday. Boris Johnson spoke about it again on Monday, denouncing an “unacceptable and scandalous” attack  . Iran will have to  “face the consequences” , warned the Prime Minister.

This is not the first time that Israeli or Iranian ships have been targeted at sea. For years, Israel and Iran have clashed directly or indirectly in Syria, the Gaza Strip or Lebanon. In recent months, the rivalry between the two countries has been transposed at sea. Two attacks on Iranian ships have already taken place in March in the Mediterranean and in April in the Red Sea.

Iranian nuclear power struggle

One of the keys to understanding what is going on is the Iran nuclear deal. The United States, Israel’s staunch ally, obviously supported the Hebrew state in this attacked ship affair. But in the context of the Iranian nuclear issue, each country has its own interests. Iran wants to step up the pressure for a new, more favorable deal. The country is today suffocated by American sanctions . Israel wants to prevent it and hopes to send a strong message to Tehran. The UK and the US, on the contrary, want to calm things down, because they do not want Iran to leave the negotiating table. Joe Biden is ready to return to the nuclear deal that Donald Trump left in 2018, restoring US sanctions against Tehran.

The negotiations are for the moment blocked. Parties to the deal are waiting for the new Iranian president, elected in June, to take office. The investiture of Ebrahim Raïssi takes place Tuesday morning. Will the ultra-conservative make a move towards the United States? Will he discuss the tensions in the Arabian Sea? He has already warned that he would seek above all to “guarantee national interests” . Getting the economy back on track will be his first challenge .

The phase of opening up to the West of his predecessor Rouhani therefore seems to be over. Last week, Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader, number 1 in the regime and decision maker on sensitive issues, warned: “Trusting the West does not work” . A pivot to the east, that is, China and Russia, is on the way.

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