I. Iranian warships linked up with a civilian cargo ship off the waters of Yemen, determined to punch through the naval blockade set up by Saudi Arabia.
I wonder if Iran’s determination to risk naval warfare has anything to do with the fact that, today, the Western 5+1 nations open final negotiations with Iran on her nuclear development program?
NEWS BRIEF: “Iran ship heads towards Red Sea amid fears of Yemen showdown”, Today Online, May 20, 2015
“Saudi-led forces have imposed searches on all ships trying to enter Yemen in a bid to prevent weapons being smuggled to the Houthis who control much of the country, including Hodaida … An Iranian cargo ship heading to Yemen is expected to cross into the Red Sea on Thursday … The approaching vessel threatens to broaden a regional confrontation over Yemen …”
Where, exactly, is this cargo ship and its Iranian warship escort?
” ‘If the weather and the ship’s technical conditions persist … we will enter the Bab al-Mandeb strait tomorrow morning’, the Iran Shahed’s captain Massoud Ghazi Mirsaid was quoted as saying on Wednesday, referring to a stretch of water linking the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea … the ship would arrive on Thursday and … it would dock on Friday.”
(See Map of the Bab al-Mandeb strait)
How important is this strait of Bab al-Mandeb?
“The Bab-el-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden … “Bab-el-Mandeb” means “Gateway of anguish”, or “Gateway of tears”; the strait derives its name from the dangers attending its navigation, or, according to an Arab legend, from the numbers who were drowned by the earthquake which separated Asia and Africa.”
As soon as the pro-Western government of Yemen fell to the rebels, a Pentagon spokesman publicly warned that the West must immediately secure free access to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. The US Navy was already in position to do just that, because it was on station to secure access to the huge American base at Djibouti.
You will be surprised by the amount of crude oil and other materials which pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait daily.
“In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels …. of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day ) moved by tankers.” (Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia) Therefore, 7.6% of all crude oil the world uses passes through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait!
The Pentagon says its warships were on station and are monitoring the cargo ship.
Iran seems really bold and nonchalant about escorting this cargo ship through the Saudi blockade. I wonder if Iran knows that President Obama is so intent upon reaching a nuclear deal that he will turn a blind eye toward this civilian, humanitarian ship? Final negotiations begin today.
NEWS BRIEF: “Iran, 6 World Powers Launch New Round of Nuclear Talks”, ABC News, May 20, 2015
“Experts from Iran and six world powers are launching a new round of negotiations focused on reaching a deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear program. Diplomats said ahead of Wednesday’s meeting that progress is being made but significant gaps remain on a main document and technical annexes ahead of an end-of-June deadline.”
If the United States Navy is ordered to allow this cargo ship through the blockade, Iran is certainly going to assume that any cargo vessel loaded with any type of cargo will also be allowed through. At that point, Iran is likely to start shipping the Houthi rebels military supplies, setting the stage for sparks to fly that could trigger regional war.