Update (2217ET): The New York Times alleges Israel is behind the naval mine attack that damaged an Iranian vessel, identified as the Saviz, on Tuesday.
An American official told the NYT that the Israelis notified Washington about how its forces mounted a mine to the Saviz.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share private intelligence communications, said that the Israelis had called the attack a retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels, and that the Saviz had been damaged below the water line. The vessel's precise location in the Red Sea was not immediately clear. -NYT
A shadowy regional war appears to be playing out between Israel and Iran, as both countries exchange accusations of attacking each other's vessels.
Readers may recall The Wall Street Journal revealed last month that Israeli intelligence has been waging its own tanker sabotage campaign against the Iranians over the past two years.
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Update (1557ET): Reuters' Idrees Ali, who covers foreign policy at the Pentagon, reports US officials did not carry out the Iranian Saviz vessel's attack earlier on Tuesday.
U.S. officials tell Reuters that the United States did not carry out the attack. https://t.co/Hqu0eBkRcN— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) April 6, 2021
Fellow Elizabeth Tsurkov, of the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, responded to Ali's tweet by saying: "Israel did."
Israel did— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) April 6, 2021
Tsurkov's theory is certainly interesting, considering The Wall Street Journal revealed last month that Israeli intelligence has been waging its own tanker sabotage campaign against the Iranians over the past two years.
"Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East, the US and regional officials say, in a new front in the conflict between Israel and Iran," the WSJ wrote last month.
It remains to be seen who is responsible for the Saviz attack, but we should note the incident occurred during the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting in Vienna today as top world powers began a new effort to bring the US back into the 2015 nuclear deal they signed with Iran.
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Update (1521ET): Reuters cites another Tasnim report indicating the Iranian Saviz vessel was struck by "limpet mines in the Red Sea."
"The vessel Iran Saviz has been stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to support Iranian commandos sent on commercial vessel (anti-piracy) escort missions," Tasnim reported.
Here's what a limpet mine looks like
Refinitiv shipping data shows the vessel has been stationary for at least 180 days.
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Update (1503ET): Iranian news agency Tasnim reports the Iranian Saviz vessel in the Red Sea was struck by a naval mine and sustained damage to its hull.
According to the defense correspondent of Tasnim news agency, some sources report an accident for the Iran Saviz ship in the Red Sea.
According to this report, according to the information obtained by Tasnim reporter, it is said that this accident occurred due to the explosion of landmines in the hull of the ship.
IranSavis has been stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to support Iranian commandos who are sent to escort commercial vessels.
Official sources have not yet commented on this and additional news will be announced later. -Tasnim
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Unconfirmed reports circulating on social media indicate an Iranian spy ship was hit in an attack in the Red Sea, amid increasing tensions between Israel and Iran, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The targeted vessel is a merchant ship but is likely a secret marine spy base operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Saudi-owned television network Al Arabiya reports the vessel affiliated with the IRGC was attacked in the Red Sea off the coast of Eritrea, a northeast African country on the Red Sea.
Israel-based news network Channel 13's Alon Ben-David, tweeted:
A spy ship and electronic surveillance of the Revolutionary Guards were attacked in the Red Sea. The ship was damaged, making it difficult for it to continue operating
The U.S. Naval Institute provides more information on the secret IRGC spy ship:
The naval role of ships like the Saviz is hard to prove with open sources, but the inference is clear. There is no legitimate civilian explanation for the action, and uniformed men have been seen onboard. On the ship's deck are Boston Whaler type launches, a boat type popular with the IRGC and not in keeping with Saviz's civilian design.
The ship is anchored off the Yemen coast at the southern end of the Red Sea, near to where Bab el-Mandeb Strait forms a natural choke point. Automated Information System transmissions and analysis of commercial satellite images show the ship has barely moved in the past three years. From its position, the ship can provide constant surveillance of maritime traffic. The narrow waterway just south of its position squeezes tankers to a channel just a couple of miles wide. There have been numerous attacks on tankers in the area.
There has yet to be any confirmation on the attack from Iranian or Israeli officials.
As we've noted before, Israel has attacked dozens of Iranian ships over the years.