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Netanyahu at a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israel could be risking escalation with Iran and tensions with the Biden administration by continuing to strike Iranian ships — a risk that is exacerbated by Israel's political crisis and dysfunctional interim government.

Why it matters: An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ship was attacked in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen on Tuesday, the same day the Vienna talks opened.

The backstory: Over the last two years, Israel has been engaged in a secret military campaign to sabotage dozens of Iranian ships and tankers which had transferred oil to Syria or missile parts to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

  • This campaign was kept under the radar until it was reported several weeks ago by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
  • Around the same time, the Iranians belatedly retaliated by attacking two Israeli-owned ships in the Gulf. Tuesday's attack was an Israeli response.

What they're saying: The Pentagon was quick to tell reporters that the U.S. wasn't involved in the attack, and U.S. officials later told the New York Times that Israel was responsible.

  • The Israeli government has been silent on the attacks other than general statements against Iran.
  • The attacks could complicate U.S.-Iran nuclear diplomacy and the Biden administrations efforts to end the war in Yemen.

What next: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is due in Israel on Sunday. The regional escalation with Iran will be one of the main topics in his discussions.

Go deeper

Apr 6, 2021 - World

Scoop: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to visit Israel next week

Lloyd Austin at the White House. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to travel to Israel next week, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This will be the first Cabinet-level visit to the Middle East from the Biden administration, which has been shifting attention away from the region and toward China and Russia.

Updated 5 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

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