Iranian Warships Escort Yemen-Bound Cargo Ship
Two Iranian warships have rendezvoused with the Yemen-bound Iran Shahed cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, the vessel's captain said in remarks published by Iran's Tasnim news agency on Monday.
"The 34th fleet has made contact with us and told us that they will keep an active presence alongside the aid ship," Massoud Ghazi Mirsaid was quoted as saying by Tasnim, referring to a destroyer and a support vessel in the Gulf of Aden.
The warships will escort the cargo ship all the way to the port of Hodaida in western Yemen, which it is expected to reach on May 21, Mirsaid added.
"Iran's recent measures in the Strait of Hormuz have one clear message to Saudi Arabia. No one can ignore Iran's key role," said an Iranian official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
"Whether reformist or hardliner, Iranian leaders have consensus on securing Iran's influence in the region," said the official.
"They (the United States and its Gulf allies) don't expect a key regional power like Iran to remain silent over its aid ship being prevented from entering Yemen."
Tehran and Riyadh have long been locked in a proxy war, competing for regional supremacy from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to Yemen, where Riyadh backs Yemen's exiled government against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
In a bold operation by Gulf Arab states, the Saudi-led coalition backed by the West on March 26 began pounding Houthi rebels and allied army units that control much of Yemen as well as inspecting all ships in a bid to stop weapons smuggling.
Tehran denies training Houthi fighters and supplying arms, as claimed by Riyadh. The standoff has intensified since the coalition declared that it had to inspect all aid for Yemen including that sent by Tehran.