Iran Warns to 'Start War' if Its Vessel is Attacked
U.S. Warns Tehran against ‘Stunt’
An Iranian vessel, Iran Shahed, has moved through the Strait of Hormuz and is heading toward Yemen to deliver humanitarian aid, Iranian news agencies announced on Tuesday. The ship also carries relief workers and peace activists from different countries.
The UN has set up a delivery hub in Djibouti for distribution of humanitarian aid to Yemen. Iran said the aid vessel will be protected by its navy. It was not clear why warships should escort a civilian vessel carrying humanitarian aid, unless Iran planned to send the ship directly to a Yemeni port, instead of Djibouti, to challenge the Saudi-led naval blockade of Yemen.
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency quoted the deputy chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, as warning today that Iran “would launch war on any state that dares to attack the Iranian ship that is on its way to Yemen with a humanitarian cargo.” (Fars News Agency, 12 May)
“Attacking the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region,” Jazayeri added.
The U.S. said today the Iranian ship carrying aid to Yemen should change course and head to Djibouti where the United Nations is overseeing humanitarian deliveries to Yemen. The U.S. Navy is tracking the ship after Iran said it would send warships to escort the vessel to Yemen, said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren.
“The Iranians have stated that this is humanitarian aid,” Warren said. “If that is the case, then we certainly encourage the Iranians to deliver that humanitarian aid to the United Nations humanitarian aid distribution hub, which has been established in Djibouti.” (AFP, 12 May)
“We call on the Iranians to do the right thing here and deliver their humanitarian aid in accordance with UN protocols which is through the distribution hub,” Warren said.
“If the Iranians are planning some sort of stunt in the region, they know as well as we do that it would be unhelpful and in fact could potentially threaten the ceasefire that has been so painstakingly brought about,” Warren said.
UPDATE: IRIN Rear Adm. Hossein Azad told reporters that Iran's "34th Fleet" is in international waters off Yemen and has the "responsibility to protect the Iranian humanitarian aid ship." In April, Iran deployed Vosper MK5-class frigate Alborz (72) and its replenishment vessel Bandar Abbas (421) to the Gulf of Aden. Adm. Azad's reference to the 34th Fleet was to this deployed naval group.
File photo: Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) Iran Shahed. The vessel is heading toward Yemen. (FNA)