Last time Iran tried to send an Iranian plane to land in Sana’a airport under the guise of “humanitarian aid” to Yemen, Saudi Arabia responded by bombing the airport in Sanaa to prevent it from landing just to make a point that Iran cannot ignore Saudi warnings that a blockade on Yemen is enforced.
Now this is happening all over again at a much larger scale and a more dangerous posture. Iran’s latest attempt is sending a humanitarian ship The Shahed cargo ship as a flotilla to break the Saudi-enforced blockade, which departed Iran on Monday and is currently in the Gulf of Aden.
Iran is mimicking the Gaza aid Flotilla, which caused world attention in Israel in 2010, and this new Iranian flotilla is accompanied by a direct threat from Iran “we [Iran] will cut off the hand that touches it”. And to ensure they make good on their threat, they are accompanying this ‘Flotilla’ with two warships, Alborz and the Bushehr proclaiming by such posture that Iran will break the blockade despite warnings by Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The U.S. advised Iran to reroute such humanitarian efforts and use a United Nations distribution hub in Djibouti, which is the normal avenue for such humanitarian assistance. It has then become obvious that Iran is attempting a standoff with Saudi Arabia and a showdown between the two nations can become imminent.
Iran is also including civilian foreign activists onboard in order to mimic the Gaza flotilla and escalate the condemnation of Saudi Arabia in case of civilian casualties. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Admiral Hossein Azad as saying that the 34th naval group “is present in the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab strait and has been given the specific mission of protecting the humanitarian aid ship.”
Tehran says the warships are necessary in case Saudi-led coalition forces from their naval blockade intercepts the humanitarian cargo ship.
But unlike Israel, Saudi Arabia is not known to have restraint. Just hours before the ceasefire’s beginning in Yemen, Saudi-led coalition forces pounded the Yemeni capital Sanaa with a massive attack on weapons installations.
Despite Saudi resolve to crush the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, a senior Iranian commander has stressed that attacking the Iranian aid ship heading to Yemen will “ignite the flames of war” in the region.
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri made the remarks in an interview with Arabic-language news channel al-Alam on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, the United States, and their allies must keep in mind that if they want to block Iran’s humanitarian aid to the regional countries, “they will start a fire which they cannot put out,” the commander added.
“I clearly announce that the self-restraint of the Islamic Republic of Iran has its limits,” Jazayeri stated.
Meanwhile the US on Tuesday warned Iran against “provocative actions,” saying it was tracking the Iranian warships. There are some six U.S. warships already in the region around Yemen, including in the Gulf of Aden.