Iran sends warship to Red Sea amid Yemen-Israel tensions

A Houthi fighter stands on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released Nov. 20, 2023. (Houthi Military Media/Handout via Reuters)

Iran deployed its Alborz warship to the Red Sea through the critical Bab el-Mandeb Strait, as Houthi rebels disrupt maritime traffic in response to Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, which have killed over 20,000 people, mostly women and children, since October.

The Tasneem news agency did not give specific reasons for the warship’s 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 el-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 merchant vessels, which led shipping companies to suspend passages through the area.

The Houthis say the attacks were in solidarity with Palestinians in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, where Israel has been carrying out indiscriminate aerial attacks and a ground invasion.

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

On Sunday, U.S. 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 Oct. 7.

On Monday, Britain’s Defense 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 spoke on Sunday with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian 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.

Amirabdollahian criticized 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 blocked a pirate attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden.

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.

By Agence France-Presse – AFP

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