According to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Iranian warship Alborz has entered the Red Sea through the vital Bab al-Mandeb Strait at a time when tensions over the vital waterway are running high.
The news agency on Monday, stated “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.”
Furthermore, it stated that since 2009, Iran’s naval forces have been conducting operations in the region “to secure shipping lanes, and repel pirates, among other purposes.”
Early in December, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are aligned with Iran, launched a barrage of missile and drone attacks against merchant vessels, forcing shipping companies to halt passage through the now heavily militarized region. In response, the United States established a multinational naval task force for the Red Sea.
The Houthis claim that the strikes were carried out in support of the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip, where Israel has been bombarding the area for months.
The Red Sea offers a detour around Africa through the Suez Canal, and 12 percent of world trade passes through it, according to the International Chamber of Shipping.
The Tasnim report was released the day after Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed ten fighters had been killed when US Navy helicopters opened fire on them as they attempted to board a cargo ship.
The UK makes a “direct action” threat
Iran deploying a warship to the area, according to Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, who is reporting from Djibouti, is not a “new” development. He said that Iranian warships have “occurred from time to time” in this region.
According to Serdar, “more and more warships,” including US and British vessels, are currently assembling in the area. The state-run news agency IRNA, Iran’s chief security officer, Ali Akbar Ahmadian, met with the head of the Houthi negotiations, Muhammad Abdulsalam.
The meeting’s location and timing are unknown, but Ahmadian was quoted by Iranian media as saying Tehran commended the Houthis for standing up to Israel and supporting the Palestinians.
In order “to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea,” the United Kingdom was “willing to take direct action” against the Houthis, as per Britain’s Defense Secretary Grant Shapps on Monday. Red Sea tensions were discussed by British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Sunday.
He stated on social media that Tehran has “long-standing support” for the Houthis and that “I made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks.” According to a statement from Iran’s foreign ministry, Abdollahian criticized the “double standards” of some Western nations, saying that the Gaza war was a sign that the “Israeli regime cannot be allowed… to set the region on fire.”
Iran was previously charged by the US with having a “deeply involved” role in the Houthi attacks. Iran has refuted these claims, claiming that the Houthi rebels were operating independently. In the Gulf of Aden in 2021, the Alborz thwarted a pirate attack on two oil tankers.
Furthermore, it was one of two Iranian warships that were deployed to the strait in 2015 “to ensure the safety of commercial ships,” a move that at the time was interpreted as an indication of hostilities with Saudi Arabia.