WASHINGTON — Iran wasted no time in sending a warship into the Red Sea on Monday, just one day after the United States killed 10 Houthi fighters attacking commercial ships in the disputed waters separating Africa from the Middle East.
Tehran's Alborz destroyer crossed the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and sank into the sea on the same day that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian praised the Houthis' “strong and strong stance…in support of the oppressed Palestinian people,” according to state media. .
The Houthis, an Islamist military group backed by Iran, have been dropping drones and missiles at foreign ships in the Red Sea from their home in Yemen since November in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The US Navy on Sunday ended 2023 by sinking three Houthi ships in the Red Sea in a strike that marked the first time the US had killed any members of the Iranian proxy group since the latest wave of attacks began.
Helicopters from the warships USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely opened fire on “four small Iranian-backed Houthi boats,” sinking three of them, while responding to a distress call from the Singapore-flagged ship Maersk Hangzhou at about 6:30. AM local time. According to US Central Command.
The Houthis have launched nearly 20 attacks on such ships in the Red Sea so far, prompting some shipping companies to avoid the waterway altogether.
The main trade lane provides a passage from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea, enabling ships to bypass Africa via the Suez Canal.
Iran's decision to send a warship to the Red Sea was a clear response to Washington's calls for Tehran to condemn the Houthi attacks and encourage peace in the region.
But given that Iran has backed most of the warring parties in the region — including Hamas, which sparked the conflict with its attack on Israel on October 7 — the pushback was to be expected, defense experts told The Washington Post on Monday.
In fact, Iran welcomed Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam to Tehran on Monday, where Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Akbar Ahmadian praised the “brave measures” taken by the proxy group against “Zionist aggression” in the region.
While the Houthis cited the attacks as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas, and said their attacks would not end until Israel allowed the full flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, none of the attacks targeted Israeli military ships.
While Iran did not directly link the ship's arrival in the Red Sea to the raging conflict, Iranian state media reported that it “comes amid rising tensions in the wake of Yemeni retaliatory attacks on Israeli-owned ships headed to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” “.
“Since 2009, Iranian warships have been operating in open waters to secure shipping lines, combat pirates, and carry out other missions,” the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
However, US and coalition forces will also remain in the Red Sea after the Pentagon on December 18 announced a new partnership – dubbed “Operation Prosperity Sentinel” – to counter the growing number of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea.
“This is an international challenge that requires collective action,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said when announcing the formation of the group. “The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks from Yemen threatens the free flow of trade, puts innocent sailors at risk, and violates international law.”
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