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Op-Ed: Iranian cargo ship to dock directly at Houthi-held port in Yemen

In the case of the Iranian cargo ship, Iran Shahed, some sources claim that the ship is being escorted by Iranian naval vessels. Iran claims the ship contains aid for Yemen including 2,500 tons of flour, rice, canned food, medical supplies, and bottled water, all badly needed in the country. The Military Times says that the Iranian ship is “flanked by two warships”. An Iranian source, Fars ,said that the ship was under escort by a foreign frigate that is part of international piracy efforts. Several accounts suggest that whatever ships are escorting the cargo ship were already in the area. The Pentagon talks of two Iranian warships “linking up”. Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren said that the warships “linked up” with the cargo ship as it passed through an area where the Iranian warships were engaged in counter-piracy operations according to Iran: It was not immediately clear whether the warships were now in close proximity of the cargo vessel. A U.S. defence official said the warships were accompanying the cargo ship, broad language that would allow for the ships to simply be in the same general area.

On the ship there are a number of foreign activists. Two of them told Reuters that the ship was not being escorted by Iranian warships. Christoph Horstel, a German political activist maintained: “It is a purely humanitarian mission. There is no ship accompanying us – let alone any Iranian warships. As I look at the horizon, there is no ship at all and during the whole trip there was never any warship,”
Horstel said that an unidentified plane had circled the ship three times last Monday. The ship is expected to reach the port of Hodeida on Thursday. Iranian news agency Tasmin reports the ship’s own captain as claiming that the ship is being escorted now by two Iranian warships. Probably, there are two Iranian naval vessels doing the escorting since both the Pentagon and Iran report this to be the case. The escorting vessels however must be a considerable distance from the ship as those on board report not seeing them. One article even names the Iranian ships as the “Vosper” and “Bandar Abbas”.

A US warship has now begun to “shadow” the Iranian cargo ship. The US is supposedly worried that the ship is carrying arms to the Houthi rebels. The US and perhaps the UN have demanded that the ship dock in Djibouti just across a narrow strait from Hodeida, while the Iranians say they will sail directly to the port. The UN has already delivered aid through the port so there surely would be no problem with a UN inspection team monitoring the cargo as it was unloaded. Indeed the Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “The required coordination has been done with relevant authorities in the U.N. for docking of the ship carrying Iran’s humanitarian aid for Yemen.”

This whole drama is completely unnecessary. The US and the Saudis want to show who is boss. They simply do not want to allow an Iranian ship to dock in Yemen. Even though it would be much more efficient for the ship to land in Hodeida and unload the aid, showing who is boss is more important and hence the ship must go to Djibouti and then presumably the goods would need to be loaded on another ship. If the ship is just to be inspected in Djibouti and then allowed to go to Hodeida, this would also be quite unnecessary since the inspection by the UN could be done equally as well in Hodeida. The naval escort is the Iranian contribution to this deliberate, dangerous, and cruel confrontation which shows that for the powers involved, showing their power is more important than cooperating to help solve the humanitarian disaster.

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