Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Israel’s arch-foe Iran, vowing that any attempt by Tehran to block the key waterway off Yemen’s coast would be met by force from the “international coalition” and Israel in particular.
The harsh statements by the Israeli PM, who was speaking at a graduation ceremony for naval officers on Wednesday, were referring to the recent Houthi attack on a Saudi oil tanker off Yemen’s western coast.
The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly said the Houthis are armed and supported by Iran, but both the group and Tehran deny the claims.
Netanyahu branded the incident “a sharp clash with Iran’s satellites who tried to sabotage international shipping” at the mouth of the Red Sea. The Saudi-led coalition insists that its oil tanker was attacked by the Houthis in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait located between Yemen and Eritrea and Djibouti on the Arabian Peninsula.
Nobody was injured and the damage posed no threat to the environment, reports Haaretz.
“If Iran tries to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandab, it will find itself facing an international coalition determined to prevent it from doing so, and this coalition will also include the State of Israel and all its arms,” Netanyahu warned.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman backed Netanyahu’s statements on Tehran, saying that “recently, we have heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea.” Speaking at the same ceremony he promised that the Israeli military is ready “to respond simultaneously on two fronts, and also on the Red Sea.”
“Only in that case we would be less selective and the harm to our enemies would be greater. I hope they take that into account,” he added.
The Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital Sanaa and large parts in the north of the country, have been occasionally targeting Saudi oil facilities. In April, a Saudi oil tanker was also struck by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, west of Yemen’s Hodeidah. The vessel sustained “minor damage” and continued on its route.
The accusations by Israel and others have merit, given that Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery for oil shipments from the Middle East. The warning comes in response to the US, which is trying to cut off Iranian crude exports.
After pulling out of a landmark international deal curtailing Tehran’s nuclear program, Washington has ordered countries to cease buying oil from Iran by November 4 or face secondary US sanctions. Major European energy corporations like France’s Total have already pulled out of Iran.
Iran’s supreme leader’s senior adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati said his country will retaliate.
“The most transparent, complete and prompt response was given by Mr [Hassan] Rouhani, the Iranian president, in his last trip to Europe. The response was clear: if Iran cannot export oil through the Persian Gulf, no-one will do this,” Velayati said, speaking at the Valdai discussion club in Russia. “Either everyone will export, or no-one,” he added.
Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iraq passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passageway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
It’s also the route for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments from the world’s largest exporter, Qatar. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to find ways to bypass the strait, but there is no real alternative for it.
Passing through the strait has been dangerous from time to time in the past. The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is dedicated to protecting commercial ships in the area, but there have been tensions between Tehran and Washington in the strait. In early 2008 the US said Iranian boats had threatened its warships.
In July 2010 a Japanese oil tanker ‘M Star’ was attacked in the strait, and an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility. In May 2015, Iranian ships attacked a Singapore-flagged tanker, forcing it to flee. The tanker had damaged an Iranian oil platform, Tehran claimed.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 2nd, 2018