Two Iranian ships intended to head for Hamas-controlled Gaza are waiting for their government's approval to challenge Israel on the high seas, escorted by “volunteer marines” that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to send “to teach Israelis a lesson.”
An Iranian Red Crescent official said the two ships are waiting for the Iranian foreign ministry to give the green light for launching, according to the French news service AFP, quoting the Iranian Mehr news service. The Red Crescent said a third ship probably would join the fleet.
Red Crescent official Mojtaba Majd also claimed that more than 100,000 Iranians have signed up to board the ships, but only those with ”expertise” would be accepted. Majd did not define the area of expertise required.
Ali Shirazi, the Revolutionary Guard’s spokesman for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it was “Iran’s duty to defend the innocent people of Gaza.”
A Red Crescent ship to Gaza was stopped by the Israeli Navy a year and a half ago, but the charged anti-Israeli atmosphere following the latest flotilla clash has encouraged Arab and left-wing colleagues to try to break Israel’s blockade over free passage to the Gaza coast.
An Iranian maritime convoy to Israel could provoke a military clash on the high seas, but it also would highlight Israel’s claim that lifting the blockade would allow Iran to directly send advanced arms, ammunition and terrorists for the de facto Hamas government in Gaza.
The Iranian Red Crescent ships were prepared with cooperation from the Turkish government, according to the London Express. Ahmadinejad reportedly told Turkish leaders in Istanbul last week that the vessels would be prepared for a direct clash with the Israeli Defense Forces.
Turkey was one of two countries that voted against new sanctions imposed on Iran last week by the United Nations Security Council. Once considered a friend of Israel and distant from Iran, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has totally reversed government policy over the past two years and has joined the Syrian-Iranian-Hizbullah axis while stating that it still wants goods relations with Israel.