, official Iranian news agency, quoted the Red Crescent official as saying: “Despite coordination with the United Nations and the World Food Programme, the plane was not granted permission to land in Djibouti." The plane is now in south-eastern Iran awaiting authorization of the foreign affairs ministry of Djibouti to land. Djibouti is the site of a key U.S. military base, the only permanent U.S. base in Africa. Drone missions are launched from the base as well as other flights.
An Iranian cargo ship, the Nejat, carrying 2,500 tonnes of aid to Yemen that had been heading for the port of Hodeida held by the rebel Houthis, changed course and docked in Djibouti after arriving late Friday night. The cargo was being handed over to the World Food Program (WFP) in Djibouti. The port authority chief, Abur Hadi
, said: “The ship will be completely unloaded and reloaded onto other vessels, everything is transparent." WFP spokesperson, Abber Etefa
, said Saturday: "The ship carries 2,500 tonnes of humanitarian aid and that includes mainly rice and wheat flour, as well as medicine, water, tents and blankets."
The ship diverted from its route to Hodeida after warnings from both the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition who feared that the ship might be delivering arms to the Houthi rebels.
The U.N. could have monitored the unloading at Hodeida and assured a quicker delivery of the aid instead of having to divert to Djibouti. However, it is clear that the U.S. and Saudis simply do not want any deliveries to be made by Iran of any kind to Houthi-controlled areas. When the ship arrived in Djibouti, it was not just inspected but unloaded and the aid given over to the WFP. There is no guarantee that the aid will even go to Hodeida now.
General Ali Ahmadi,
Secretary of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) said:
“We are coordinating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to deliver Iran’s humanitarian aid to the oppressed Yemeni people in Hudaydah port after making sure that the route is safe. The Nejat ship has been dispatched to Djibouti in order to assess the situation. We are sending humanitarian supplies to Yemen needed by its people and we do not want to face any problems in this regard,”
There are a number of international journalists, doctors, and foreign anti-war activists aboard the ship.
I expect that the Nejat will not be allowed to journey to Hodeida at all. The aid has already been offloaded. If the UN, the US, and Saudi coalition were going to allow the Nejat to dock in Hodeida, they would have simply inspected the cargo in Djibouti and sent it on its way with perhaps UN monitors to ensure it did not pick up weapons on the way. The process is transparent. The powers that count, the US and Saudis, ensured that the ship not only did not sail directly to Hodeida but will never go there and will not deliver the aid. The aid could very well end up in Aden to be given to areas controlled by Hadi loyalists. As Etefa
from the WFP put it:
“The cargo of the ship will be handed over to WFP in Djibouti and will be transferred to WFP-chartered vessels for shipment to the Yemeni ports of Hudaydah and/or (the southern port city of) Aden, It will be delivered to humanitarian partners on the ground for distribution."
Saudi Arabia has already stopped an Iranian cargo plane from delivering aid from landing in Sanaa by bombing the runway, preventing any aid planes from landing no matter where they were from. Clearly the aim is not just to prevent arms from being provided by Iran but humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas as well. Some aid will still get in because the UN will need to show some concern for the humanitarian needs of those in rebel areas.