Saudis, UAE asked Israel to hit Iranian spy ship, but concealed talks with Iran

Three days after Israel’s alleged April 9 commando raid on the IRGC’s Saviz forward spy ship on the Red Sea, Saudi and Iranian officials were quietly holding their first talks in five years to patch up their quarrel, without Israel’s knowledge. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that Israel agreed to target the ship following a request from Saudi crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman and UAE ruler Sheikh Muhammed Bin Ziyad to remove this threat to their oil shipping on the Red Sea. After considering the request, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to accede, since safe shipping on the Red Sea was also in Israel’s own interest.

However, the prime minister was not told that Saudi officials were about to launch secret talks with Tehran three days later. He was taken aback to discover that the Saudi crown prince had sought the Israel commando raid as a tool for strengthening his hand in the secret talks with Tehran. Had Netanyahu been apprised of this ploy, he would never have sent the IDF to sabotage the Iranian vessel. The Saviz operation though successful was unfortunate on another score: It got the Israeli government in hot water in Washington.

This episode, along with other pressing Iran-related issues were undoubtedly addressed in the Israeli security cabinet on Sunday, April 18 in its first session since February

The Financial Times disclosure of the new Gulf diplomatic track cited unidentified officials as reporting that the Baghdad talks were positive. “The process is being facilitated by Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who held talks with Prince Mohammed in Riyadh last month,” the officials said. “It’s moving faster because the US talks [related to the nuclear deal] are moving faster and [because of] the Houthi attacks.”

A senior Saudi official denied that any talks with Iran had taken place. The Iraqi and Iranian governments did not comment. But a senior Iraqi official and a foreign diplomat confirmed the talks. The first round took place in Baghdad on April 9 and will continue next week.

It appears that the indirect US-Iranian track is also on the move, despite Tehran’s claim to have raised uranium enrichment to 60pc purity on the heels of repeated violations of the 2015 nuclear accord. Israel seems to have been outplayed on two diplomatic tracks, both of which have the purpose of restoring Iran, its archfoe, to a respectable role in international affairs. It is no good therefore for Israel to rely on new friends in the Gulf or on its foremost ally, the US under the Biden administration, to rein in Iran’s avowed enmity. The Jewish State has only itself to depend on.

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