Iranian military personnel man a naval fastboat in the Strait of Hormuz to mark "National Persian Gulf Day." (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel Contributing to US-led Gulf Security Mission

Israel providing intelligence to American military, but unlikely to send warships to Strait of Hormuz

Israel’s foreign minister revealed that his country’s security establishment is partaking in a U.S.-led maritime security mission in the Strait of Hormuz to protect trade routes in the Gulf, according to the Ynet news agency.

In a closed-door session, Israel Katz reportedly told parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel is contributing intelligence and other unspecified assistance to the American military to help ensure freedom of navigation in the vital waterway. About a third of the world’s oil supply passes through the Strait.

Katz said the initiative was part of Israel’s attempt to counter Iranian expansionism, while also boosting Israel’s ties with Sunni Arab nations.

Lior Akerman, an Israeli political analyst and retired brigadier general, told The Media Line that Israel’s involvement in the U.S.-led coalition is a political move, not a military one.

“From a military and commercial point of view, Israel has no direct interest in fighting with the Iranians in the Persian Gulf,” Akerman said.

He contended that it was an effort to please President Donald Trump and so strengthen Israel’s relationship with the United States.

“The assumption is that Israel’s contribution will be mainly in technology, intelligence and providing a land platform for American forces,” Akerman said, adding that the cooperation has the benefit of showing the world that Israel is not afraid to confront Iran.

Akerman noted that the decision could also strengthen Israel’s relations with regional Arab states, which are also concerned about the threat Iran poses.

Akerman said he did not think Iran would attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz, calling its recent actions but a flexing of muscles. “The Iranians, on the one hand, and Americans on the other, are testing the boundaries. The likely assumption is that one of the parties will eventually give up and it will probably be the Iranians. It is hard to see President Trump giving in,” he concluded.

Tensions are already high in the Middle East, with the US blaming Tehran for the seizing of Western-flagged ships. Washington has been working to increase the number of countries in its security coalition, but some nations have resisted, fearing being drawn into a wider confrontation with Iran.

Ahmed Obaid Saif, an Emirati political analyst and writer, told The Media Line that Israel is now coordinating with several Arab countries due to a shared concern about Iran. “Israel is like a patient with multiple fractures, who is now going through the stage of physical therapy, which allows him to reengage in his natural surroundings.”

Saif highlighted that in addition to military cooperation, Israel and the Gulf states have together participated in sports competitions, economic conferences and international agencies.

“If Arab states are concerned about Israel’s involvement, they can come forward and protect the Strait of Hormuz themselves,” Saif asserted.

Nizar Abd al-Qadir, a Lebanese security analyst, told The Media Line that Israel’s contribution to the American coalition is more of a liability than a benefit. “Israel acting like a regional superpower in the absence of peace with the Palestinians is wrong,” he said, “especially with its current colonial policies [in the West Bank].”

Al-Qadir suggested that Israel’s true intention was to “make the Red Sea an area of influence for the Israeli navy. It is an area which is open to the Arab Sea and Oman Gulf as well as the Indian Ocean. The influence that Israel will gain will threaten the security of the region at a later stage,” he said.

The Trump Administration has accused Iran of perpetrating attacks on six vessels in the Gulf, in addition to using its proxy forces to target American assets in Iraq and civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has responded by warning that a conflict with Tehran would lead to the “mother of all wars.”

Alon Pinkas, a political analyst and former Israeli consul general in New York City, similarly told The Media Line that it was not beneficial for Israel to be part of the maritime security mission.

“Israel shouldn’t participate, but if an American request is made, it complicates Israel’s position,” he said.

Pinkas argued that Israel’s role will have almost no impact on its relations with Arab countries. “In fact,” he said, “they may not want Israel [to be involved].”

Following Washington’s exit last year from the nuclear deal with Iran, the US reinstated sanctions against Tehran, including on its oil exports. Trump said he took action because Iran was not holding up its end of the accord and was still working toward becoming a nuclear power.

The Islamic Republic called the imposition of sanctions “economic terrorism.”

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