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Iran's Maritime Power Play

Recently, Stand for Israel reported on Iran’s seizure of a cargo ship, and this past week news leaked of Iranian naval vessels firing on a tanker from Singapore. Yediot Achronot writes that with these glaring displays of maritime aggression even as it seeks a nuclear agreement with the West, Iran is testing international limits while projecting power:

The incidents coincided with a push by Washington to reassure Gulf Arab monarchies that their interests would not be threatened by a nuclear accord that Tehran and world powers are trying to reach by the end of June.

In an escalating confrontation with Saudi Arabia over Yemen, Tehran criticized Arab states for recklessness and brutality in that country, where a Saudi-led coalition is attacking an Iranian-allied militia.

Iran has also sent an aid ship, the Iran Shahed, to the Yemeni Red Sea port of Hodaida to test a naval blockade enforced by the coalition. Several Iranian military officials have warned of war if the Iran Shahed is attacked by Saudi-led forces. It expected to reach the port by Thursday.

“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…

On two previous occasions, in 2008 and 2010, Iran threatened to disrupt oil flow in the Gulf by shutting the Strait of Hormuz if there were any military strike on its nuclear sites.

Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily through the Bab el-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz to Europe, the United States and Asia, waterways which pass the coasts of Yemen and Iran.

Iran, the United States, France, Germany, Russia and China are in talks aimed at clinching a long-term deal by June 30 to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an end to sanctions.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies fear that the nuclear deal might embolden Tehran to deepen its influence in the Middle East and step up its efforts to dominate Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

They are concerned that lifting sanctions would also give Tehran a cash windfall to increase funding to Shi’ite militias in countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Commenting on Iran’s display of sea power, regional analysts said Washington’s priority is to stop Iran developing an atomic bomb and halt expansion of the Sunni jihadis of Islamic State.

Tags: Middle East Unrest , Iran

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