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Iran deploys warship in Red Sea

January 2, 2024 at 11:21 am

A view of Iran frigate IRIS Alborz warship[Wikipedia]

Iran has deployed its frigate IRIS Alborz in the Red Sea, at a time of soaring tensions in the key waterway amid Houthi attacks on Israel-linked vessels, Reuters has reported, citing Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency. The Houthi actions started in November in response to Israel’s war against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Although it did not provide details of the ship’s mission, Tasnim pointed out that Iranian warships have been operating in open waters to secure shipping routes, combat piracy and carry out other tasks since 2009.

In response to the threat posed by the Houthis in the Red Sea, many major shipping companies have switched to the longer and costlier route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope rather than pass through the Suez Canal, which normally handles about 12 per cent of global trade.

The Alborz entered the Red Sea via the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, explained Tasnim, without saying when. There were unconfirmed reports on social media that it arrived late on Saturday.

The British-built Alvand class frigate had been a part of the Iranian navy’s 34th fleet, alongside the Bushehr support vessel, patrolling in the Gulf of Aden, the north of the Indian Ocean and the Bab Al-Mandab Strait as far back as 2015, according to Iran’s Press TV.

The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it could not speak for the Iranian Navy or comment on the unconfirmed reports of the Iranian vessel’s movements.

Yemen’s Houthis reportedly attacked a Maersk-owned container ship with missiles and small boats over the weekend, prompting the company to pause all sailing through the Red Sea for 48 hours. Later on Sunday, the US Navy attacked three Houthi boats, killing all of the crews.

This comes as American officials revealed plans to launch specific strikes against Houthi sites, including those used to launch boats used in attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, Shahram Irani, was quoted in local media on 2 December as saying that the Alborz was carrying out missions in the Red Sea. Moreover, Iran’s Defence Minister, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, said on 14 December in reference to the Red Sea that, “Nobody can make a move in a region where we have predominance.”

The US Navy has three ships in the region, including the USS Mason guided-missile destroyer and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, from which the helicopter that attacked the Houthis was launched. Britain’s Royal Navy has deployed HMS Diamond, a Type-45 destroyer, while France has sent the multipurpose frigate Languedoc to the Red Sea.

UPDATE: 150 Palestinians killed, 286 injured as Israeli forces continue onslaught on Gaza: Health Ministry