Gradual progress in talks to revive the nuclear deal may be dealt a blow by a series of “grey-zone” attacks.
Just as the negotiations between Tehran and Washington appear to be making some, albeit slow, progress over the United State rejoining the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, several incidents between Israel and Iran have again highlighted just how actively the two countries are engaged in a campaign of “grey-zone warfare”.
Iran has been blamed for several attacks on Israeli-owned merchant ships, including one last month in waters near Oman, while Israeli forces are alleged to have last week attacked the Iranian vessel Saviz in the Red Sea. Israel is also suspected to be responsible for an explosion on Saturday that apparently destroyed the internal power system at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, leading to a widespread blackout.
The timing of these attacks raises questions about the ultimate aim. The Saviz, said to be a “spy ship” used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been anchored in the Red Sea in international waters off the coast of Yemen since late 2016 so could have been targeted at any stage. The fact that the attack occurred the same day that the nuclear talks began in Vienna cannot have been a coincidence. Given that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently opposes the nuclear deal with Iran and has lukewarm relations with the Biden administration, it doesn’t take much imagination to assume that the attack on the Saviz was designed to make the job for Biden negotiators in Vienna just that little bit more difficult.