Iran Raises Mideast Tensions with Warships Sent to Syria

Last week, two Iranian naval vessels passed through the Suez Canal and docked in Syria, raising tensions in Israel and Iran.

The two vessels in question were a supply vessel and a destroyer and traveled through the Suez Canal on Saturday and later docked in the Syrian port of Tarsus.  The two ships were sent to Syria as support for Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, who enjoys a close relationship with the Iranian government.  It is suspected that the ships are carrying arms that would be used against Syrian dissidents who are currently embroiled in a civil war with the government or possibly some sort of weapon that could be used against Israel.

According to Iranian Navy Chief, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, the ships’ passage through the Suez was to show off Iran’s military might, but he was silent as to the details of the ships’ mission.  This morning, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi reiterated Sayari’s statement and said that Iran has a natural right to have “warships in the high seas”.  Iranian news outlets claimed the boats are carrying sailors who are to provide training for the Syrian navy.  Iranian ships have been seen in the Indian Ocean and near the coast of Africa protecting Iranian cargo ships that pass through that area that is rife with piracy.

Iranian ships first appeared in the Mediterranean Sea in February 2011 and raised the ire of Israel and the US, who put their navies on alert.  Those two ships, a destroyer and supply ship, took the same route – traveling via the Suez Canal.  The ships docked in Syria, unloaded some cargo and returned to Iran via the Suez and Red Sea.

The Israeli reaction has been subdued but the Foreign Ministry said it would be monitoring the movement of the ships to ensure they do not approach Israel.   Most nations in the Western world were silent or expressed concern regarding the presence of Iranian ships as it could lead to regional mid-east war.  China accused the West of provoking a civil war in Syria but also demanded that the Assad regime cease its violence against its citizens.