Washington blames Iran after new ship attacks in Red Sea and off India

Tensions and naval incidents follow one another, against the backdrop of the war that Israel is waging against the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza

Washington blames Iran after new ship attacks in Red Sea and off India

Tensions and naval incidents follow one another, against the backdrop of the war that Israel is waging against the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza. A chemical tanker was hit on Saturday, December 23, off the coast of India by an “attack drone fired from Iran,” said the American Department of Defense. The attack, which occurred at 10 a.m. local time (7 a.m. in Paris), caused a fire on board - which was extinguished - and did not cause any injuries, according to the Pentagon. No US warships were in the vicinity of the boat at the time of the attack, Washington said.

The targeted vessel, the MV Chem-Pluto, sails under the flag of Liberia, belongs to a Japanese company and is operated by a Dutch company, the US Department of Defense said. According to the maritime security firm Ambrey, it “is affiliated with Israel” and sails between Saudi Arabia and India, with the American daily Wall Street Journal affirming, for its part, that the Dutch company operating the MV Chem-Pluto “ is linked to Israeli shipping magnate Idan Ofer”.

The attack occurred in the Arabian Sea, 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) southwest of the Indian port of Veraval in Gujarat state, Ambrey and Britain's maritime security agency said UKMTO. The Indian Navy said it had dispatched an aircraft and a warship to assist the MV Chem-Pluto.

Fifteen attacks on commercial ships by the Houthis

While responsibility for this strike was not immediately established, it follows a series of drone and missile attacks carried out in recent weeks in the Red Sea by Yemen's Houthi rebels, supported by Iran. , against the backdrop of war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In November, an Israeli cargo ship was also damaged in the Indian Ocean by a drone attack, for which Washington also blamed Iran.

On Saturday, an Indian-flagged Gabonese oil tanker, the MV Saibaba, issued a distress call after being hit in the Red Sea by a drone fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, the US Central Command (Centcom) announced in specifying that there were no injuries. Another tanker, the MV Blaamanen, flying the Norwegian flag, was also targeted by a Houthi drone, which narrowly missed it, added Centcom, according to which this is the fourteenth and fifteenth attacks on commercial ships by Yemeni rebels in the Red Sea since October 17.

In addition, an American destroyer patrolling the Red Sea, the USS Laboon, shot down four other Houthi attack drones targeting it on Saturday, according to Centcom.

Attacks on shipping since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas have prompted major shipping companies to reroute their ships to the southern tip of Africa, despite higher fuel costs for much longer journeys.

Threat of shipping lane closures

The Houthi rebels, who control entire swaths of Yemeni territory including the capital Sanaa, repeat that they will continue their attacks as long as food and medicine do not return in sufficient quantities to the besieged Gaza Strip. They are part of the “axis of resistance” against Israel, which includes other groups supported by Iran, such as Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

On Saturday, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard official warned that other shipping lanes will become impassable if the war between Israel and Hamas continues. “With the continuation of crimes, America and its allies must expect the emergence of new powers of resistance and the closure of other waterways,” Mohammad Reza Naqdi was quoted as saying by the Iranian News Agency Tasnim. “They will soon have to expect the Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar and other waterways to be closed against them,” he warned.

The Red Sea is a “highway” connecting the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and therefore Europe to Asia. Around 20,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal each year, representing around 40% of global trade.

Iran's 'completely harmful influence' in region, says Cameron

The White House has accused Iran of being "heavily involved in planning" recent attacks by these Houthi rebels by providing them with "sophisticated military equipment" and "intelligence assistance" without which they "would struggle to spot and hit” boats.

The British Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister, David Cameron, said on Sunday that Iran exerted “a completely harmful influence in the region and in the world”. In an interview published by the Sunday Telegraph, he called for the international community to send Iran "an extremely clear message that this escalation will not be tolerated."

Iran admits its political support for the Houthis, at war since 2014 against the Yemeni government recognized by the international community. But Tehran denies providing military equipment to the rebels.

The United States announced on December 18 the formation of a coalition to defend maritime traffic in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, joined by around twenty countries including France, the United Kingdom and United and Canada.