Saturday 13 January 2024

West steps up activities in Red Sea as Iran warns against U.S. adventurism

 The Red Sea is witnessing a surge in naval activities as the United States and its allies in the West strive to safeguard international shipping routes amid the looming threat of Houthi-launched missiles and drones from Yemen.

To protect shipping, the U.S. Navy has launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, with the help of a coalition of 13 other nations including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, South Korea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, all of which have dispatched naval vessels or other military assets to the Red Sea.

During a recent meeting with Arab leaders, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern about the tangible impact of Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.  

"These attacks are having a real effect on the prices that people have to pay for food, for medicine, for energy. Ships have to get diverted to other places. Insurance rates go up," he said.

Maritime and industry analyst Sam Chambers reported a significant decline in Suez Canal transits in the first weekend of January, reaching the lowest point since the Ever Given container ship caused a blockage in the Suez Canal in 2021 for six days.

Iran claims U.S. destabilizing region

Amid the dominant presence of Western coalition military ships, the Iranian frigate Alborz arrived in Houthi-controlled Yemen, adding to the challenges already faced by the coalition and shipping venturing through the sea.

The Foreign Ministry of Iran even issued a "stern warning" against perceived "U.S. adventurism" that could endanger regional peace and escalate the conflict in the region. Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Amir Saeid Iravani emphasized Iran's commitment to maritime security, freedom of navigation and maintaining peace of the region. Iravani also dismissed accusations that Tehran supported Houthi attacks as "baseless."

However, the U.S. maintains the position that Iran has been aiding the Houthis, with Deputy Ambassador to the UN Chris Lu accusing Tehran of helping the Houthis plan operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea and alleging that Houthi effectiveness heavily relies on Iranian assistance.

The U.S. also claims that Iran is employing surveillance ships in regional waters to aid Houthi drones and missile launches. Iravani responded to these accusations by claiming that they were meant to divert attention away from the root causes of the situation, which is Israel's ongoing genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.

Iravani urged the UN Security Council to help address the root causes of the current conflicts in the region and take decisive measures to compel Israel to end its war on Gaza. Since the beginning of the conflict on Oct. 7, Israel has killed at least 25,000 Palestinians, injured nearly 60,000 others and displaced nearly the entire population of Gaza.

In solidarity with the besieged population of the Gaza Strip, the Houthis in October began targeting ships passing through the Red Sea – where 12 percent of global trade passes through – owned and operated by anybody with links to Israel. In November, the Houthis seized one Israel-leased cargo ship, the Galaxy Leader, and turned it into a tourist attraction for Yemenis.

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