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"Some Kind of Stunt"
Gulf Showdown II: Naval Boogaloo

Are we headed back toward another naval showdown in the Persian Gulf? Just as a ceasefire was settling over Yemen (however unevenly) and the Iranians had released the Maersk Tigris, Tehran has dispatched another ship full of “aid” to Yemen—and declared it will use its navy to protect it. The Associated Press reports:

Iran says the ship, which departed Monday, is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists. It says the ship is expected to arrive at Yemen’s port city of Hodeida next week.

Iran’s navy said Tuesday it will protect the ship, and on Wednesday Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Iran would not permit any country involved in the Yemen war to inspect its cargo.

The Saudis have been adamant that they will not allow Iran to reinforce the Houthis in Yemen; while the U.S. has not been as explicit, the last time Iran dispatched a flotilla to Yemen, Washington deployed the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the Persian Gulf. That convoy turned back.

This time, not only is the freighter to be escorted by warships, but everyone has turned up the rhetoric. Iran’s deputy chief of staff “bluntly declare[d] that the self-restraint of Islamic Republic of Iran is not limitless” and said any confrontation would “spark a fire”, while the Saudi military insisted they would not let the ship land. The Pentagon for its part warned the Iranians against “planning some sort of stunt.” The USS Theodore Roosevelt is still in the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, an Iranian airline, Mahan, has managed to secure 9 modern Airbus planes in defiance of sanctions through an Iraqi shell company. Experts fear that these, too, will be used to ferry arms to Yemeni rebels. Yet, in what has to win the macho quote of the week contest, the head of Mahan stated, “is really baseless to say Mahan buys modern planes to carry weapons as if there is shortage of planes in Iran for such purposes.”

So if Iran really is intent on ferrying arms to the Houthis, it could present the Saudis, Americans, et al. with an unsavory choice: either shoot down unarmed planes, or tangle with warships. Is it just us, or does it seem like the window for treating just the immediate symptoms of Iran’s regional aggrandizement is getting narrower?

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  • JR

    Um, I will take “shooting down unarmed planes and calling it an accident” for $400, Alex…

  • Avi_in_Jerusalem

    The situation Yemen seems exactly similar to Gaza. Rockets and mortar bombs are being fired from Yemen/Gaza into Saudi Arabia/Israel. Israel/Saudi Arabia are reacting with conventional means – planes etc. The Iranians are funding and actively supporting the Yeminis/Gazans with money and arms. Note the difference in publicity, press coverage and world opinion. Due to the fact that we are first world country with first world facilities we are awash with reporters eager to push their pre decided line, whereas the Yemen is not a place where you can find a big choice of 5 star hotels or Internet connectivity or bars.

    • JR

      I mean, if dead Muslims can’t be used to demonize Jews, does anyone really care? Of course not. If somebody disagrees with that assessment, they are welcome to go protest outside Saudi Embassy in DC or outside UN in New York.

    • Dan Greene

      Yes, you’re right except that this time it’s the Saudis whacking civilians instead of the Israelis. And, by the way, there was no Houthi firing into Saudi Arabia prior to the Saudi attack on Yemen. Let’s get cause and effect straight.

  • mdmusterstone

    They’re calling our bluff as anyone should have foreseen and
    the table is surrounded by all the rough trade of the world, Russia,
    China, North
    Korea, etc, not to mention our allies and
    would be allies in Asia.
    The rules of all the games will be different after this, our prospects
    lessened. Electing Barrack Obama is
    going to be seen as a lot more expensive choice than anyone imaged.

  • Tom Chambers

    Um, I don’t know where the USS Theodore Roosevelt is, but I imagine that any naval showdown over this Iranian ship would be in the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea, not the Persian Gulf.

    • Dan Greene

      Yeah, I noticed that too. Typical. But come on, TAI doesn’t have time for the nitnoid stuff like mastering the basic geography of the Middle East!

    • JR

      Well, in all fairness, it could happen in Gulf of Oman. You have to through Persian Gulf to get to all these other places. I would think it would make more strategic sense (for US) for the confrontation to occur in Gulf of Aden, further away from Iranian mainland the better.

  • JR

    I wrote this two weeks ago. “Iranian regime is acting completely reasonably. If you think your opponent will give in to matter what you do, why would you not push your advantage as far as it can go? Because Barack Obama stood in front of the cameras and read from a teleprompter? Please….” The point is not that I was right. The point is that if this course of action was obvious to somebody with no experience in foreign policy living half a world away using nothing but common sense, how can it possibly not be obvious to people in State Department, DoD ,etc etc etc…. I mean, come on, what are these people doing? I genuinely want to know what they expect Iran to do and how they expect them to behave.

  • Dan Greene

    My question is–is this claim true or not:

    “‘Iran is ready for inspection of its cargo ship that is carrying relief supplies to Yemen,’ an official with the Islamic Republic’s Red Crescent Society (IRCS) based on the ship said. ‘If someone has doubts about Iran’s humanitarian aid to Yemen, Iran welcomes their inspection,’ the official said, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported May 12. ‘Iran is ready to accept full inspection in any port of any country,’ he said.”

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