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Iran Threatens War over Saudi-Led Blockade in Yemen

An Iranian general threatened that any attempt to blockade a ship headed to Yemen “will spark war,” The Times of Israel reported today. Iran claims that the ship, the Shahed, is headed to Yemen to provide what humanitarian aid.

Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier-General Massoud Jazzayeri warned that any attack on “the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region. And this fire may not be put out or brought under control.”

“The US and Saudi Arabia should know that Iran’s self-restraint has a limit,” he told the Arabic-language TV Alalam, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Admiral Hossein Azad as saying that the 34th naval group “is present in the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab strait and has been given the specific mission of protecting the humanitarian aid ship.” That naval group includes the destroyer Alborz and logistic ship Bushehr, which are on a 90-day anti-piracy assignment in the region.

Saudi Arabia has established a blockade of Yemen to prevent Iran from sending weapons to the Houthi rebels who are fighting the American-backed government.

According to a 2012 Reuters investigation (.pdf), the Shahed is part of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, a company sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department in September 2008 for engaging in deceptive practices in order to ship “military-related cargo” and goods “to advance its nuclear and missile programs.”

Agence France-Presse reports that the United States has directed Iran to divert the ship.

“The Iranians have stated that this is humanitarian aid,” Warren said.

“If that is the case, then we certainly encourage the Iranians to deliver that humanitarian aid to the United Nations humanitarian aid distribution hub, which has been established in Djibouti.”

“This will allow the aid to be rapidly and efficiently distributed to those in Yemen who require it,” he added.

The New York Times reported that “the head of the Red Crescent Society of Iran, Amir Mohsen Ziya’ee, said that ‘based on international regulations, no one can inspect a vessel that is moving in international waters carrying the flag of a country,’ according to Iran’s official Press TV.” Late last month, Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged ship in an international shipping lane, and did not release the ship until the ship’s operator agreed to settle a financial dispute with an Iranian company.

Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich analyzed the legality of the Saudi blockade of Yemen for The Washington Post, writing that “if Riyadh and its allies are inclined to maintain the blockade, and intercept the Iranian relief ship, it has a strong legal basis.”

[Photo: Ruptly TV / YouTube ]