The New York Times reported Wednesday that Israel informed the United States it had struck an Iranian vessel off the coast of Eritrea in the Red Sea on Tuesday.
An unnamed U.S. official told the newspaper that “the Israelis had called the attack a retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels, and that the vessel had been damaged below the water line.”
The assault came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the U.S. potentially rejoining Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal.
The Iranian news agency Tanzim confirmed the vessel had been hit by mines that were attached to it, and named it as the Saviz, claiming it had been stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to “support Iranian commandos sent on commercial sent on commercial vessel (anti-piracy) escort missions.”
But according to a report published in October by the U.S. Naval Institute, the Saviz was a covert military ship operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The ship’s long presence in the region, repeatedly criticized by Saudi Arabia, has come as the West and United Nations experts say Iran has provided arms and support to Yemen’s Houthi rebels amid that country’s years-long war. Iran denies arming the Houthis, though components found in the rebels’ weaponry link back to Tehran.
A statement attributed to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the ship as a commercial vessel.
“Fortunately, no casualties were reported… and technical investigations are underway,” Khatibzadeh said. “Our country will take all necessary measures through international authorities.” Continue Reading….