MASLOVKA, Russia — Deep in a pine forest in southern Russia, military trucks, their silhouettes blurred by camouflage netting, appear through the trees. Soldiers in four-wheel-drive vehicles creep along rutted dirt roads. And outside a newly pitched tent camp, sentries, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, pace back and forth.
Over the past month or so, Russia has deployed what analysts are calling the largest military buildup along the border with Ukraine since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.
It is far from a clandestine operation: During a trip to southern Russia by a New York Times journalist, evidence of the buildup was everywhere to be seen.
The mobilization is setting off alarms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and is increasingly seen as an early foreign policy test for the Biden administration, which just hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions. Russia responded almost immediately, announcing on Friday that it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats.
“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and the annexation of Crimea.
told European lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia is now garrisoning about 110,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border. In Washington, the director of the C.I.A. told Congress that it remains unclear whether the buildup is a show of force or preparation for something more ominous.
Even if the goal of the buildup remains unclear, military analysts say it was most certainly meant to be seen. A show of force is hardly a good show if nobody watches.
“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va., who has been monitoring the military activity. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”
foreign reporters have been showing up daily to watch the buzz of activity.
Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent Russian military analysts.
Gigantic military trucks are parked within sight of the roads, which have, strangely, remained open to public traffic.
news release to announce the redeployment of the naval landing craft closer to Ukraine, in case anybody was curious. The vessels sailed along rivers and canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The ministry posted pictures.
forces for a possible incursion.
But Mr. Burns said U.S. officials were still trying to determine if the Kremlin was preparing for military action or merely sending a signal.
HONG KONG — Teddy bears clad in black police riot gear, on sale for more than $60 apiece. Messages of gratitude to the authorities, pasted by children onto the walls of their schools. Uniformed police officers goose-stepping in formation, accompanied by a counterterrorism drill complete with a helicopter and hostage simulation.
This is National Security Education Day in Hong Kong, the first since the central Chinese government imposed a wide-ranging security law on the territory last year.
The law, a response to months of fierce and sometimes violent antigovernment protests that began in 2019, has become synonymous with the authorities’ efforts to clamp down on dissent and ensure staunch loyalty. And the panoply of activities on Thursday indicated how they plan to do so: with a mixture of cutesy cajolery and overt shows of force, for a law that an official once said should hang over Hong Kongers like a “sword of Damocles.”
“Any ‘hard resistance’ that undermines national security will be struck down by the law. Any ‘soft resistance’ will be regulated by the law,” Luo Huining, the central government’s top official in Hong Kong, said at a ceremony kicking off the day’s events.
arrest around 100 people, gut the political opposition and remake Hong Kong’s electoral system.
frequently deployed in 2019.
show of goose-stepping. Traditionally, many of the disciplined services in Hong Kong, a British colony until it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, had marched in the British style. But the Chinese Army is known for the distinctive goose-step, in which the leg does not bend at the knee.
“After enjoying this wonderful performance,” an official website for National Security Education Day promised, viewers would be led inside to view armored vehicles, the explosives disposal team and recruitment information.
riot-gear-clad teddy bear, a pair of zip ties strapped to its chest ($62); key chains engraved with crowd-control phrases like “Disperse or we fire” and “Warning: Tear smoke” ($4 each); and a set of 18 three-inch figurines, clutching rifles and shields and bearing police warning flags about illegal assembly (“festive special offer”: $114).
It seemed unlikely that any sort of protest would break out in such a heavily fortified location. Still, officials seemed eager to forestall even a hint of the so-called soft resistance Mr. Luo had singled out in his speech. As journalists waited to enter the open house, security officers asked some who were wearing yellow or black face masks — colors associated with the pro-democracy movement — to swap them for blue ones the authorities provided.
four pro-democracy activists tried to march through parts of downtown, bearing a poster that said “Without democracy and human rights, there is no national security.” They were followed by dozens of police officers.
In other parts of the city, schoolchildren — including those in kindergarten — were enlisted in the promotion of national security. Education has been a particular focus for the authorities, who have blamed what they call biased curriculums for turning Hong Kong’s youth against the government.
On Thursday morning, many schools hosted ceremonies to raise China’s national flag and sing the national anthem (which the Hong Kong government last year made a crime to disrespect).
At the Wong Cho Bau middle school, which is run by a pro-Beijing teachers’ union, the principal told students during a morning assembly that national security should be incorporated into every part of their curriculum, including geography and biology classes, as well as weekly flag-raising ceremonies.
“These daily accumulations can help us construct our own national concept and identity, so as to achieve prosperity and glory for the country,” said the principal, Hui Chun-lung. “So everybody should study hard. If the youth are strong, then China is strong.”
Afterward, school officials showed off colorful slips of paper that students had filled out and pasted onto a “community mosaic wall.” “Please express your opinion toward the idea of ‘Support national security, guard our home,’” the prompt said.
In response, the students expressed their gratitude to the government and their relief that the pro-democracy protests had subsided. “Those people who protest everywhere are intolerable, destroying public places and hurting our home,” one student wrote.
Other students’ responses were even more effusive.
“I think the idea of supporting national security and guarding our home is extremely without problems! Support! Support! Extremely support!” one student wrote. “Whatever the national security law says, goes! I very much have no opinion!”
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to suspend the sale of many offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia approved under the Trump administration, but it will allow the sale of other matériel that can be construed to have a defensive purpose, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
The plan, which was briefed to Congress last week, is part of an administration review of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that the White House announced soon after President Biden’s inauguration.
The original sales were met with strong opposition last year from Democrats in Congress, who are angry over the countries’ involvement in the war in Yemen and wary of the transfer of advanced military technology to authoritarian Middle Eastern states with ties to China.
The Biden administration will approve $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, according to a State Department spokesman, including F-35 fighter jets and armed Reaper drones. Biden administration officials signaled at the time of the review that those arms, sold to the Emirates soon after it had signed a diplomatic agreement with Israel brokered by the Trump administration, were likely to be approved.
killings of civilians, including many children, because of the use of such bombs by the Saudi-led coalition.
Raytheon Company, the biggest supplier of the bombs, lobbied the Trump administration to continue the sales, despite a growing outcry from humanitarian groups, members of Congress and some in the State Department.
The suspension does not cover sales of any other kinds of weapons to Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said. Weapons used by helicopters would still be permitted, as well as ground-to-ground munitions and small arms. Electronics equipment, including jamming technology, would also be permitted. The Saudi military receives almost all its weapons from the United States.
formally notified lawyers about the decision, which officials say was made this year as part of a lawsuit opposing the agreement brought by the nonprofit New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs.
The Emirates played a big role in the Yemen war but stepped back recently. As part of negotiations last year to try to persuade the Emirates to normalize relations with Israel, the Trump administration told Emirati officials that it would accelerate approval of sales of F-35 fighter jets and drones.
U.S. officials said on Wednesday that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken received the report this week from other offices in the State Department, and that he was expected to approve it. The report would then go to the National Security Council for final approval.
“I and many other House members remain concerned about the proposed sale of $23 billion in arms to the U.A.E.,” said Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said he had “many questions about any decision by the Biden administration to go forward with the Trump administration’s proposed transfers” of the fighter jets, drones and munitions to the Emirates.
Israeli officials and some members of Congress have expressed concerns that the sales of F-35s would weaken what they called Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in the region, and that Congress requires presidential administrations to maintain it as a matter of law. Israel is currently the only country in the region with F-35s.
Other U.S. officials have been concerned about selling the F-35, one of the military’s most advanced pieces of hardware, to the United Arab Emirates when it is developing a closer relationship with China, which is notorious for technological espionage. American officials are worried about the radar and stealth abilities of F-35s and some drone technology, among other things.
Ms. Fontenrose added that some officials had additional concerns that the Emirates might employ American-made weapons, including Reaper drones, in the Libyan civil war, where it has intervened. She said the Emirates had provided the Trump administration with “assurances” on that front.
The State Department official, who requested anonymity to discuss policies that had not been officially announced, noted that it would take years to complete the Emirati arms deal and that during that period the administration would ensure that the country was living up to obligations, such as to protect American technology and to ensure that U.S. arms were not used in contexts that violate human rights and the laws of conflict.
Mr. Meeks echoed that point. “Fortunately, none of these transfers would occur anytime soon,” he said, “so there will be ample time for Congress to review whether these transfers should go forward and what restrictions and conditions would be imposed.”
Mr. Trump’s deal with the Emirates was approved soon after it had agreed to join the Abraham Accords, which normalized its diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time.
Some Democrats complained that the arms sales appeared to have been an inappropriate inducement for the Emirates to agree to the accords, which largely formalized a relationship that had grown steadily friendlier for many years.
“I still don’t believe it’s in our interest to fuel a spiraling arms race in the Middle East,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and a leading critic in Congress of the arms sales and of U.S. ties to Gulf Arab states. “I have requested a briefing from the administration regarding the status of the review of both the U.A.E. and Saudi sales.”
BRUSSELS — Now that the United States has decided to pull its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, NATO’s foreign and defense ministers are meeting to discuss “a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” the American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said on Wednesday at the alliance’s headquarters.
Ministers from NATO member countries, many of them attending the Wednesday meeting virtually, are expected to formally back the American withdrawal date. The alliance’s mantra has always been “in together and out together,” so the ministers are expected to confirm that their troops will leave alongside the Americans, though some smaller contingents may leave before.
At the moment, of the 9,600 NATO troops officially in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of them are American, though that number can be as many as 1,000 higher. The second-largest contingent is from Germany, with some 1,300 troops.
“We have achieved the goals we set out to achieve,” Mr. Blinken said. “Now it’s time to bring our forces home.”
liberate women, help girls to attend school and shift agriculture away from growing heroin poppies.
After the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, “Together we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Mr. Blinken said. Those goals have been achieved, he asserted.
Some current and former American officials agree that Afghanistan is not expected to emerge as a terrorist threat to the United States in the short term, but they say that the question is more difficult to assess in the long run.
Even as the Atlantic alliance withdraws its troops, Mr. Blinken said, “our commitment to Afghanistan and its future will remain.”
The German defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, referring to NATO, told the German television station ARD on Wednesday: “We always said, ‘We’ll go in together, we’ll leave together.’ I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I assume that we will agree to that today.”
a buildup of Russian troops at the border with Ukraine, the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday, appearing alongside Mr. Blinken. “Russia must end this military buildup, stop provocations and de-escalate,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.
a visit to Israel and Germany.
After the gathering, Mr. Blinken will meet with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, the other members of “the Quad,” to discuss Afghanistan, Ukraine and the continuing talks in Vienna about how to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
the blackout at the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in Iran, which was reportedly the result of an attack by Israel, and by the responses from Tehran, which have included an attack on an Israeli ship and a vow to begin enhancing uranium enrichment from 20 percent to 60 percent, levels banned under the accord and closer to weapons-grade.
The Iranian moves were criticized in a joint statement from the British, French and German foreign ministers on Wednesday.
“This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the statement said.
The statement called Iran’s moves “particularly regrettable” when the Vienna meetings had made progress. “Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions,” it noted.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is purely civilian.
The German Foreign Ministry said that the main topic of the separate meeting of foreign ministers from the Quad would be Afghanistan. Although France pulled its troops out of Afghanistan years ago, the country remains deeply involved in the Iran talks. The Vienna negotiations are trying to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord, from which President Donald J. Trump withdrew in May 2018. In response, Iran began to breach enrichment levels, calling its actions “remedial.”
This year’s report offers a far more robust discussion of the national security implications of climate change, whose threats, for the most part, are long term, but can also have short-term consequences, the report said.
“This year, we will see increasing potential for surges in migration by Central American populations, which are reeling from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather, including multiple hurricanes in 2020 and several years of recurring droughts and storms,” the report said.
It adds that the economic and political implications of the coronavirus would reverberate for years, predicting that the economic damage would worsen instability in a few countries, though it does not name them.
Combined with extreme weather caused by climate change, the report says the number of people worldwide experiencing acute hunger will rise to 330 million this year from 135 million. The report says that the pandemic has disrupted other health services, including polio vaccinations and H.I.V. treatments in Africa.
Typically, the director of national intelligence delivers the threat assessment to Congress and releases a written report alongside it. But no declassified assessment was issued last year, as the Trump administration’s intelligence agencies sought to avoid angering the White House.
In 2019, Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, delivered an analysis of threats from Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that was at odds with President Donald J. Trump’s views. The testimony prompted Mr. Trump to lash out on Twitter, admonishing his intelligence chiefs to “go back to school.”
Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence; William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director; and other top intelligence officials will testify about the report on Wednesday and Thursday.
BERLIN — The United States will increase its military presence in Germany by about 500 personnel to better defend Europe, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during a visit to the country on Tuesday.
The statement not only reverses the previous administration’s plans to withdraw up to 12,000 of the roughly 36,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany. It also expands the U.S. footprint at a time when Europe is growing uneasy over Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine.
“These forces will strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe,” Mr. Austin said after meeting his German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. “They will augment our existing abilities to prevent conflict and, if necessary, fight and win.”
He did not elaborate on the added troops’ specific mission, saying only that the change would “create more space, more cyber and more electronic warfare capabilities in Europe.”
The new contingent will be stationed in Wiesbaden, home to one of the U.S. military’s most modern installations in Germany. It is the headquarters of the U.S. Army Europe and about 3,000 troops and their families.
The change “will greatly improve our ability to surge forces at a moment’s notice to defend our allies,” Mr. Austin said.
Late last month, foreign officials in army regalia toasted their hosts in Naypyidaw, the bunkered capital built by Myanmar’s military. Ice clinked in frosted glasses. A lavish spread had been laid out for the foreign dignitaries in honor of Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day.
That very day, the military, which had seized power on Feb. 1, gunned down more than 100 of its own citizens. Far from publicly condemning the brutality, the military representatives from neighboring countries — India, China, Thailand and Vietnam among them — posed grinning with the generals, legitimizing their putsch.
The coup in Myanmar feels like a relic of a Southeast Asian past, when men in uniform roamed a vast dictators’ playground. But it also brings home how a region once celebrated for its transformative “people power” revolutions — against Suharto of Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines — has been sliding back into autocracy.
From Cambodia and the Philippines to Malaysia and Thailand, democracy is languishing. Electoral politics and civil liberties have eroded. Obedient judiciaries have hobbled opposition forces. Entire political classes are in exile or in prison. Independent media are being silenced by leaders who want only one voice heard: their own.
alliance of democracies.” With China and Russia involved, the United Nations Security Council has done nothing to punish Myanmar’s generals.
Covid-19 with them.
A scheduled special meeting on Myanmar by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations offers little hope of action. That consensus-driven group avoids delving into members’ internal affairs. Earlier negotiations among regional foreign ministers didn’t result in a single policy that would deter Myanmar’s coup-makers.
Besides, many of the region’s leaders have no wish to uphold democratic ideals. They have used the courts to silence their critics and met protest movements with force.
But if authoritarians are looking out for one another, so, too, are protesters. In Thailand, students have stood up to a government born of a coup, using a three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” films to express defiance. The same gesture was adopted after the putsch in Myanmar, the leitmotif of a protest movement millions strong.
its first commoner president, and Malaysia would shunt aside a governing party bloated by decades of graft and patronage. Thailand’s generals had managed to go years without a coup. Even in Vietnam, the Communist leadership was pushing forward with liberalization.
The most significant transformation seemed to be in Myanmar. The military had led the country since a 1962 coup, driving it into penury. In 2015, the generals struck a power-sharing agreement with a civilian leadership fronted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest. President Barack Obama went to Myanmar to sanctify the start of a peaceful political transition.
Now Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is again locked in her villa, facing possible life imprisonment. Her supporters have been arrested and tormented. Soldiers picked up one of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s followers and burned a tattoo of her face off his arm.
Much of the rest of Southeast Asia is in full-fledged democratic retreat. The leader of Thailand’s last coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is still the prime minister. His government has charged dozens of student protesters, some in their teens, with obscure crimes that can carry long sentences. Thai dissidents in exile have turned up dead.
After a brief interlude out of government, Malaysia’s old establishment is back in power, including people associated with one of the largest heists of state funds the world has seen in a generation. Vietnam’s crackdown on dissent is in high gear. In Cambodia, Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has dismantled all opposition and set in place the makings of a family political dynasty.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines may enjoy enduring popularity, but he has presided over thousands of extrajudicial killings. He has also cozied up to China, presenting it as a more constant friend than the United States, which once colonized the Philippines.
Protesters in Thailand, who gathered by the hundreds of thousands last year, have resumed their rallies, even though most of their young leaders are now in prison.
As the riot police fired rubber bullets near the Grand Palace in Bangkok last month, Thip Tarranitikul said she wanted to erase the military from politics.
army chief, appears to have underestimated the people’s commitment to democratic change. Millions have marched against him. Millions have also joined nationwide strikes meant to stop his government from functioning.
There is little reason to believe the military will back down, given its decades in power. Over the past two months, it has killed more than 700 civilians, according to a monitoring group. Thousands have been arrested, including medics, reporters, a model, a comedian and a beauty blogger.
But the resistance has demographics on its side.
Southeast Asia may be ruled by old men, but more than half its population is under 30. Myanmar’s reforms over the past decade benefited young people who eagerly connected to the world. In Thailand, this same cohort is confronting the old hierarchies of military and monarchy.
Regional defenders of democracy, including the besieged dissidents of nearby Hong Kong, have formed what they call the Milk Tea Alliance online, referring to a shared affinity for the sweet brew. (Twitter recently gave the movement its own emoji.) On encrypted apps, they trade tips for protecting themselves from tear gas and bullets. They have also bonded over the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young workers, in countries where income inequality is growing wider.
“The youth of Southeast Asia, these young digital natives, they inherently despise authoritarianism because it doesn’t jibe with their democratic lifestyle. They aren’t going to give up fighting back,” said Mr. Thitinan of Chulalongkorn University. “That’s why, as bad as things may seem now, authoritarianism in the region is not a permanent condition.”
In Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, protesters have faced the military’s rifles with a sense of an existential mission.
“I’m not afraid to die,” said Ko Nay Myo Htet, a high school student manning one of the barricades built to defend neighborhoods. “I want a better life for the future generation.”
The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran mysteriously lost power on Sunday, Iranian officials said, a blackout that came during negotiations in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the nuclear deal with Tehran that the Trump administration left.
Power was cut across the facility, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a civilian nuclear program spokesman, told Iranian state television, The Associated Press reported.
“We still do not know the reason for this electricity outage and have to look into it further,” Mr. Kamalvandi said. “Fortunately, there was no casualty or damage, and there is no particular contamination or problem.”
Malek Shariati Niasar, an Iranian lawmaker who serves as a spokesman for the Parliament’s energy committee, wrote on Twitter that the outage was “very suspicious,” A.P. reported. He raised the possibility of “sabotage and infiltration.”
engaging in a form of shuttle diplomacy.
One working group is focusing on how to lift economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, while another is looking at how Iran can return to the terms that set limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges needed to produce it.
remarks reported by Iran’s Mehr News Agency.
Word of the Natanz outage came as Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, was in Israel on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s defense minister, Benny Gantz.
At the meeting, Mr. Gantz said, “We will work closely with our American allies, to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel.”
MOSCOW — Armored personnel carriers bristling with weapons line a highway in southern Russia. Rows of tanks are parked beside major roads. Heavy artillery is transported by train.
Videos of military movements have flooded Russian social media for the past month, shared by users and documented by researchers.
And Western governments are trying to find out why. The movements appear to be the largest deployment of Russian land forces toward the border with Ukraine in seven years, according to the U.S. government.
Whether it is a test of how the Biden administration might respond, retaliation against Ukraine for curbing Russian influence in domestic politics in Kyiv, or preparation for actual cross-border military action has divided analysts of Russian policies.
said Russia would intervene to prevent ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers by the Ukrainian government, a risk he compared to the ethnic massacres of the 1990s Balkan wars, though there are no signs that such violence is imminent in Ukraine today.
said Kyiv “lives with an illusion of a possible forceful settlement” of the conflict.
wrote, led Mr. Putin to warn in a speech given to the Davos Forum of an “increase in the risk of unilateral use of military force,” refraining from mentioning which country might be using that force.
published in the Insider, a Russian investigative news site.
A wide range of weaponry has been on public display. In March, for example, a train hauling Msta-C self-propelled howitzers rumbled over a bridge across the Kerch Strait separating Russia’s mainland from Crimea.
The Russian airwaves, too, have been chockablock with reports of a possible resumption of war in eastern Ukraine.
“Bad news from Ukraine,” the commentator Dmitry Kiselyov said in opening his Sunday talk show this week on state Channel 1. “The talk in Ukraine is increasingly about war.”
Mr. Kiselyov mocked war jitters in Ukraine, where the government has been trying to portray a calm resolve; the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited the front on Thursday.
The Russian state television report lingered on an incident in the Ukrainian Parliament this month when a lawmaker, Anna Kolesnik, after hearing a presentation from a military commander on the scale of Russia’s forces massed at her nation’s border, wrote a phone message to an acquaintance saying, “it’s time to split from this country.”
Mr. Kiselyov noted that in Ukraine, “the fear is inflating.”
Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, an analytical organization based in Arlington, Va., said the Russian buildup seems targeted more at shifting Ukraine’s stance in settlement talks than countering U.S. sanctions.
“Saber-rattling is an oversimplification,” he said. “It is coercive diplomacy with a purpose,” though for now that purpose is unstated and left open to interpretation by Ukraine and Western governments. “That is the situation we are in.”
An Iranian military vessel stationed in the Red Sea was damaged by an apparent Israeli mine attack on Tuesday in an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing that has characterized the two adversaries’ exchanges in recent years.
The damage to the vessel, which Iranian media identified as the Saviz, came as progress was reported on the first day of talks to revive American participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers. Israel, which regards Iran as its most potent foe, strongly opposes a restoration of that agreement, which was abandoned by the Trump administration three years ago.
Several Iranian news outlets showed images of flames and smoke billowing from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea, but the full extent of the damage or any casualties was unclear.
The Saviz, though technically classified as a cargo ship, was the first vessel deployed for military use that is known to have been attacked in the Israeli-Iranian skirmishes.
a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and air.
published a report in October 2020 that asserted the Saviz was a covert military ship operated by the Revolutionary Guards. The report said uniformed men were present onboard and a boat type used by the Revolutionary Guards, with a hull similar to a Boston Whaler, was on the ship’s deck.
Iran has engaged in its own clandestine attacks. The last one was reported March 25, when an Israeli-owned container ship, the Lori, was hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea, an Israeli official said. No casualties or significant damage were reported.
The Israeli campaign is part of Israel’s effort to curb Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and stymie Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.