Iran set upon comments reported in Israel this week that Israel was participating in the US-led coalition to defend trade in the Persian Gulf. Tehran now is slamming Israel’s “illegitimate existence” and saying Iran reserves the right to defend itself. Iran is trying to highlight Israel’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 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 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 airstrikes Israel has carried out against Iranian targets in Syria, a campaign that was revealed by former Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot earlier this year.
Iran has likely exaggerated Israel’s role, since Israel’s Ynet didn’t indicate that Katz claimed Israel was present in the Gulf, only that Israel was open to assisting the mission with intelligence. It is not entirely clear what was meant, but Iran wants to blow out of proportion the alleged Israeli role. Towards that end Iran’s foreign ministry said iran 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 US threats to respond to any Iranian action. The US has so far refrained from that response, even after a sophisticated US drone was downed in June. Since then Iran has also detained oil tankers, in response to the UK detaining an Iranian tanker. Iran is also angry because the US has sanctioned its foreign minister and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But Tehran’s main concern is what it calls America’s “economic terror.”

Therefore Iran is using its claims now of confronting Israel to excuse more 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 being willing to work with Israel. Tehran has been angered by Israeli official visits to Oman and other states last year. For Tehran, Israel and the US are always slammed together, part of the way Iran seeks to portray itself as “resisting” both countries, a narrative the Islamic Republic has put forward for decades.

Source » jpost