Mystery of the Iranian ‘armada’

Brian Whitaker writes: An Iranian “armada” is heading towards Yemen, according to a report last Friday. A couple of days later, the American aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt set sail from the Gulf, also heading in the direction of Yemen. Fox News is in no doubt about what this means; a headline on its website says “US aircraft carrier sent to block Iranian shipments to Yemen”. But let’s look a little closer.

What we know about the Iranian “armada” comes mainly from the American political website, The Hill. Citing two US defence officials, it says Iran is sending seven to nine ships, “some with weapons”, “toward Yemen” in a “potential attempt” to “re-supply” the Houthis.

Conceivably some of the vessels are warships, though the report doesn’t actually say so. It’s also unclear whether “some with weapons” means the ships are armed or carrying weapons as cargo. Considering the risks of piracy in the area, the former would not be surprising.

The ships’ destination “toward” Yemen rather than “to” Yemen also seems rather vague and talk of them possibly “re-supplying” the Houthis implies that Iran has been supplying them before – which is not established fact.

One curious feature of the “armada” affair, according to The Hill’s report, is that the Iranians seem to have made sure the US knew it was happening:

“What’s unusual about the new deployment … is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to ‘communicate it’ to the US and its allies in the Gulf.”

The Hill’s report also notes: “Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission.”

Although the dispatch of USS Theodore Roosevelt looks like a response to the Iranian move, its purpose is also unclear – as is the ship’s precise destination. Reports say, rather vaguely, that it’s heading for the Arabian Sea. [Continue reading…]

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