Iran’s bluster over 'Israel in the Persian Gulf'

Tehran is slamming Israel’s “illegitimate existence” and saying that Iran reserves the right to defend itself.

US warships stationed in Persian Gulf 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
US warships stationed in Persian Gulf 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
 Iran reacted to comments reported in Israel this week that the Jewish state was participating in the US-led coalition to defend trade in the Persian Gulf. Tehran is now slamming Israel’s “illegitimate existence” and saying Iran reserves the right to defend itself. The Islamic republic is trying to highlight Jerusalem's alleged role because it wants to claim that it is resisting Israel, part of the larger Iranian-regime narrative that often presents Iran’s regional policy as confronting Israel. 
It was therefore not surprising that Iran was sensitive and alert to reports in Israeli media that Foreign Minister Israel Katz had said on Tuesday that Israel was improving relations with the Gulf states and was even part of the coalition protecting trade. Israel wants to prevent Iranian entrenchment in the region. Preventing Iran’s entrenchment has been official policy for years and is part of the reason for the air strikes it has carried out against Iranian targets in Syria, a campaign that was revealed by former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot earlier this year.
Iran has likely exaggerated Israel’s role, since the local online media outlet Ynet didn’t indicate that Katz had claimed Israel was present in the Gulf, only that it was open to assisting the mission with intelligence. It is not entirely clear what was meant, but Iran characteristically wants to blow out of proportion the alleged Israeli role. Towards that end, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves the right to counter “this threat.” Press TV highlighted Iran’s willingness to “counter” Israel. “The US and the illegitimate Zionist regime are responsible for all the consequences of this dangerous move.”
Iran has already been accused of attacking four oil tankers in May and two in June. A recent US Department of Defense report accused Iran of rocket attacks near US bases in Iraq. This comes amid Iran-US tensions and American threats to respond to any Iranian action. The US has so far refrained from such a response, even after a sophisticated US drone was downed in June.
Since then, the Islamic republic has also detained oil tankers, in response to the UK detaining an Iranian tanker. Tehran is also angry because Washington has sanctioned its foreign minister and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But Iran's main concern is what it calls America’s “economic terror.”
Iran is therefore using its current claims of confronting Israel to excuse more of its actions in the Gulf. The incident reveals the sensitivity of comments about Israel and the Gulf. For instance, when Bahrain hosted a US-backed summit to aid the Palestinians, the country was accused by Iranian media of “betraying” the region. The Bahrain embassy in Baghdad was attacked in June.
It’s clear that Iran does not want any Gulf states to be willing to work with Israel. Tehran was angered by Israeli official visits to Oman and other states last year. Iran always slams Israel and the US together, part of the way it seeks to portray itself as “resisting” both countries – a narrative the Islamic republic has put forward for decades.

Tags Gulf IRGC