The Iranians—well known for smuggling weaponry to various parts of the Middle East—issued a threat to the US and Saudi Arabia if an Iranian ship claiming to carry aid is intercepted on its way to Yemen. The Iranian Defense Ministry, in a statement carried by the Fars News Agency, said that there would be consequences for “provocative moves” against the ship.
“The US and Saudi Arabia will be responsible for the consequences of any provocative moves,” Fars quoted the Iranian Defense Ministry statement as saying. Yemen is the site of a regional war, with Iran backing Houthi rebels bent on taking over and the Saudis leading a coalition supporting the recognized government. The US has repeatedly called for the Iranians to deliver their aid to the United Nations team in the nearby nation of Djibouti, rather than going directly to Yemen. Weapons smuggling is just one concern held by the Americans.
“There have been concerns about making sure that shipments that go into Yemen are for the purposes for which they’re declared,” spokesman Jeff Rathke was quoted by a State Department press release as telling reporters. “So certainly we have a concern, to make sure that shipments going to Yemen from Iran or from others that they be focused purely on humanitarian efforts.”
Rathke also listed efficiency, effective delivery of aid, and coordination with the UN efforts as other reasons why Iran should go through the UN.
The US does have warships in the area for a “range of contingencies,” according to Rathke, without elaborating. Other navies are also active in the region, and Rathke addressed fears the Iranians could get into a fight at sea.
Said Rathke, “We discourage any provocative actions and we encourage the provision of assistance through established channels. So we certainly want to see all sides avoid any provocative actions.”
As noted above, Iran has issued their own statements on provocative actions. Fars quoted Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri as telling the Arabic-language TV Alalam on Tuesday that “attacking the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region.”
He further noted that ” this fire may not be put out or brought under control.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 13, 2015)