Iranian warship ‘enters Red Sea’ amid ongoing Houthi attacks on merchant shipping

Deployment of the Alborz warship occurs just one day after US naval forces repelled a Houthi assault against a Maersk cargo vessel, killing 10 attackers

Illustrative: An Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares to leave Iran's waters, April 7, 2015. (Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad/AP)
Illustrative: An Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares to leave Iran's waters, April 7, 2015. (Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad/AP)

Iran’s Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea through the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Monday, amid heightened tensions in the globally important strategic waterway.

The report comes against the backdrop of repeated missile and drone attacks against Israel from Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Houthi attacks on merchant shipping in the critical international waterway.

On Sunday, US Navy helicopters from the USS Eisenhower carrier strike group fired on Houthi rebels who were attempting to board a Maersk cargo ship off Yemen, with the Houthis reporting 10 fighters dead or missing.

Tasnim did not give specific reasons for the deployment of the Alborz warship to the Red Sea, but noted that Iranian military vessels had operated in the area since 2009.

“The Alborz destroyer entered the Red Sea… by passing through the Bab el-Mandeb” strait at the southern tip of the Red Sea, connecting with the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean, the agency said.

It added that Iran’s naval fleet has been operating in the area “to secure shipping lanes, repel pirates, among other purposes since 2009.”

The US Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower transits the Strait of Hormuz on November 26, 2023. (Photo by Ruskin Naval / US Department of Defense / AFP)x

The US in early December set up a multinational naval task force for the Red Sea following a flurry of missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels on merchant shipping in the waterway which led shipping companies to suspend passages through the area.

The Houthis say the attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians the Gaza Strip, where Israel is in the midst of a ongoing war with the Hamas terrorist group following its savage assault against Israel on October 7.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, 12 percent of global trade passes through the Red Sea, which provides a shortcut past Africa via the Suez Canal.

Regional tensions have spiked since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

On Monday, Britain’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said Britain was “willing to take direct action” against the Houthis “to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”

And British Foreign Secretary David Cameron spoke on Sunday with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian about the Red Sea tensions.

“I made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks,” he said on social media, noting Tehran’s “long-standing support” for the Houthis.

Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen publish a video showing how the group hijacked an Israeli-linked shipping vessel in the Red Sea on November 20, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

Abdollahian in response criticized the “double standards” of some Western countries, according to a statement from Iran’s foreign ministry, saying the “Israeli regime cannot be allowed… to set the region on fire” with the Gaza war.

The US had previously accused Iran of being “deeply involved” in the Houthi attacks on Israel.

Iran has denied such accusations, saying the Houthi rebels were acting on their own.

In 2021, the Alborz repulsed a pirate attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden. And in 2015, it was one of two Iranian warships sent to the strait “to ensure the safety of commercial ships” in what was seen at the time as a sign of tensions with Saudi Arabia.

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