Before retaliating for the Iranian rocket attack on the MV Helios Ray automobile carrier in the Gulf of Oman on Friday, Feb. 26, Israel is bound to consider the incident’s wider ramifications.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said it was his “initial assessment” that Iran was responsible.
“The location of the ship in relatively close proximity to Iran indicates this,” he said, before two Israeli investigators set out for Dubai on Saturday to join the international investigation into the incident
Confirmation of his allegation came on Sunday from Kayhan, a hawkish Iranian publication, which stated that “the attack on the Israeli ship was legitimate.”
Our sources report that the waters in the area are rife with Iranian Revolutionary Guards missile boats and they most likely fired the rockets at the Israeli cargo ship while it was en route from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. The blasts left holes above the waterline on both sides of the hull. (See attached picture.) There were no casualties.
Israeli government and army chiefs maintain that this attack cannot go without response, but they understand that serious consideration is called for since hitting back at Iran may generate accelerated Iranian counterattacks that may also draw in its proxies and allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip. A wider confrontation may ensue with repercussions that would be hard to control.
Before punishing Iran for its rocket attack on its ship, Israel needs therefore to look at a wider context:
Can the incident be used for a direct attack on an Iranian nuclear target – even though such action may scupper the Biden diplomatic initiative?
Should Israel line up behind the Saudis and confront Iran together?
Or should Jerusalem react cautiously enough to abstain from upsetting Biden’s Iran applecart?
Is it possible for an Israeli strike against Iran to hold the Saudis back from striking out with their own overture to Iran in reaction to Biden’s policy reset? Such an approach by Riyadh may well be followed by fellow Gulf rulers. The anti-Iran Saudi-UAE-Bahrain-Israel front set up by the Trump administration would finally break up.