Iran warship enters Red Sea amid heightened tensions: Tasnim

AFP , Monday 1 Jan 2024

Iran's Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea through the strategic Bab al-Mandeb strait, Tasnim news agency reported Monday, at a time of heightened tensions over the globally important waterway.

Iran warship
In 2021, the Alborz repulsed a pirate attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden. Photo courtesy Tasnim

 

The agency did not give specific reasons for its deployment, but noted that Iranian military vessels had operated in the area since 2009.

"The Alborz destroyer entered the Red Sea... by passing through the Bab al-Mandeb," waterway at the southern tip of the Red Sea, connecting with the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean, the agency said.

It added that Iran's naval fleet has been operating in the area "to secure shipping lanes, repel pirates, among other purposes since 2009".

The United States in early December set up a multinational naval task force for the Red Sea following a flurry of missile and drone attacks by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on Israel-linked vessels which led shipping companies to suspend passages through the area.

The Houthis say the attacks were in solidarity with Palestinians suffering under Israel's war on Gaza, where the civilian death toll continues to mount.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, 12 percent of global trade passes through the Red Sea, which provides a shortcut past Africa via the Suez Canal.

On Sunday, US Navy helicopters fired on Houthi rebels attempting to board a cargo ship off Yemen, with the rebels reporting 10 fighters dead or missing.

Regional tensions have spiked since the start of the Israeli war against Gaza Palestinians on 7 October.

On Monday, Britain's Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said Britain was "willing to take direct action" against the Houthis "to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea".

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron had spoken on Sunday with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian about the Red Sea tensions.

"I made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks," he said on social media, noting Tehran's "long-standing support" for the Houthis.

Abdollahian criticised the "double-standards" of some Western countries, according to a statement from Iran's foreign ministry, saying the "Israeli regime cannot be allowed... to set the region on fire" with the Gaza war.

The United States previously accused Iran of being "deeply involved" in the Houthi attacks.

Iran has denied such accusations saying the Houthi rebels were acting on their own.

In 2021, the Alborz repulsed a pirate attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden.

And in 2015, it was one of two Iranian warships sent to the strait "to ensure the safety of commercial ships" in what was seen at the time as a sign of tensions with Saudi Arabia.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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