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Blinken Blames Iran for Cargo Ship Attack

The latest attack appears part of a low-level conflict between Iran and Israel going back years.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken bids farewell as he boards his plane at the New Delhi airport to depart for Kuwait on July 28.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken bids farewell as he boards his plane at the New Delhi airport to depart for Kuwait on July 28. JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken blames Iran for ship attack, record heat strikes Europe, and the Israeli Supreme Court rules on Sheikh Jarrah evictions.

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken blames Iran for ship attack, record heat strikes Europe, and the Israeli Supreme Court rules on Sheikh Jarrah evictions.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Blinken Condemns Ship Attack

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday blamed Iran for an attack on a cargo ship off the coast of Oman, joining the United Kingdom and Israel in condemning an apparent suicide drone attack that killed two crew members aboard.

Blinken’s statement did not elaborate on why Iran may have targeted the ship, which the shipping company said was empty of cargo. Although flying a Liberian flag, the ship is part of the Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

The attack appears to be yet another episode in a tit-for-tat maritime conflict between Iran and Israel that has ramped up since 2019. Israel’s targets have reportedly included arms and fuel shipments meant to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria—so much so that Russian naval ships have escorted Iranian vessels to prevent interference. Iran’s targets have been more wide-ranging, from arms shipments to car carriers to the latest attack on a cargo ship.

Israel tensions. How or, indeed, if Israel responds will be an indicator of how much Prime Minister Naftali Bennett differs from his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Writing in July, FP’s Anchal Vohra described a growing consensus among Israeli analysts that Bennett needs only “calculated risks” in the maritime arena while focusing on the more direct targets of Iran’s nuclear program and arms depots in Syria.

Iranian-Saudi relations. Although Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah are likely to continue, those in support of Assad’s government in Syria may soon dry up. That’s according to a report in the Asia Times teasing an impending rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which could include a quid pro quo: a Saudi withdrawal from Yemen in return for an Iranian drawdown in Syria.


The World This Week

On Monday, Aug. 2, Japan’s extended state of emergency—currently now covering Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba as well as Tokyo and Okinawa—begins and will last until Aug. 31.

On Tuesday, Aug. 3, the latest round of hearings in the case of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, takes place in Vancouver as part of extradition proceedings begun by the United States.

On Wednesday, Aug. 4, France and the United Nations co-host an international conference to raise funds for Lebanon.

On Thursday, Aug. 5, Ebrahim Raisi is inaugurated as Iran’s new president. 

On Friday, Aug. 6, Brunei hosts the ASEAN Regional Forum—a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers along with foreign ministers from the 10 ASEAN dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and United States) as well as officials from Bangladesh, North Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea.


What We’re Following Today

Europe’s heat dome. Europe could see new record-high temperatures Monday as a heat dome continues to drive a heat wave across the continent’s southeast. The dry conditions have already contributed to wildfires in Greece and Italy, while in Turkey at least eight people have died in fires that have blazed since last Wednesday. Turkey has seen an unusually high number of wildfires this year—133 in total. From 2003 to 2020, Turkey averaged 43 wildfires per year, according to European Union data.

Israel rules on Sheikh Jarrah. Israel’s Supreme Court will decide Monday whether to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem in a controversial case that contributed to a new round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in May. If the Palestinian appeal is rejected, legal avenues still remain to prevent evictions that would further inflame tensions. The Israeli government reportedly tried to have the hearing postponed by six months, in part to placate U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of a likely White House visit in August.

Myanmar’s leaders play for time. Myanmar will hold new elections in 2023, junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday, extending a previous promise of elections within a year after its Feb. 1 power grab. The junta leader’s televised speech, in which he also declared himself prime minister, comes days after he asked for help from “friendly countries” to address Myanmar’s rampant COVID-19 epidemic, fueled by the more contagious delta variant.


Keep an Eye On

The Taliban advance. The Afghan government has sent hundreds of military reinforcements to Kandahar and Herat as Taliban forces close in on the two major cities. The Taliban are also deep into Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, with reports indicating the insurgents were within a few hundred yards of the central government compound. The battles are considered a potential turning point in the country’s civil war, as most of the Taliban’s recent gains have come in rural areas.

Food insecurity. Ethiopia’s Tigray region, southern Madagascar, Yemen, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria were all named by both the U.N. World Food Program and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization as the most at risk of “catastrophic” food insecurity in the next three months. Six countries have been added to the list of “hunger hot spots” since the two agencies last assessed global hunger in March: Chad, Colombia, Kenya, Myanmar, Nicaragua, and North Korea.


Odds and Ends

Italy and Qatar shared a gold medal finish in the men’s high jump on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics by declining a jumpoff to separate the two athletes after both had cleared a height of 2.39 meters (roughly 7 feet 10 inches), putting them jointly in first place. “I would never share it with somebody else,” Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi said of his friend and competitor Mutaz Essa Barshim after long celebrations.

The tie mirrors the first shared medal of the modern Olympic era, when Americans James Connolly and Robert Garrett both won silver in the high jump at the 1896 Athens Games (with jumps a full 2 feet short of Sunday’s winners).

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

Tags: Iran, War

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