Israel: Iranian Warships in Med are a 'Serious Provocation'
Israeli official uses newspaper Yediot Aharonot to sound warning over Iran's ships going through Suez canal to reach Mediterranean Sea.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/16/2011, 11:33 AM / Last Update: 2/16/2011, 11:31 AM
Israel is "closely monitoring" Iranian plans to deploy warships in the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Israeli security officials told daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot Monday.
Iranian officials have announced plans to deploy warships to areas near Israel and to dock at a Syrian port for a year. Such a move would be a "serious provocation," a senior official said. There is no justification for Iran to deploy its battleships to the Mediterranea Sea, he said, and if it does so, Israel will view the move as "a change in the situation" and "Israel will know how to deal with it."
Iranian warships are now deployed in Bab el-Mandeb in the Indian Ocean, as part of international efforts to combat piracy, the paper reported. It cited Western intelligence officials who said that Iranian warships in the Red Sea could supply radical Islamic groups from Yemen with weapons.
UPI reported that earlier this month, Iran's navy chief Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told the semi-official Fars news agency that the Islamic republic intends to maintain a "powerful and permanent presence" to protect the interests of Iran in the "strategic waters north of the Indian Ocean."
An Israeli submarine passed southward through the Suez Canal in 2009, in a move that was seen as a warning to Iran. Israel currently has three submarines and is preparing for two more. According to an article in World Politics Review, the submarines "reportedly carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles of an unidentified type."
"The missiles, part of Israel's estimated 100-strong nuclear arsenal, reportedly have a range of up to 800 miles," the Review reported. "The subs probably cannot hit Iran without passing through the Suez into the Red Sea and ultimately the Indian Ocean. The Red Sea is also the best route to the Gulf of Oman, where Israeli ships and submarines might enforce a blockade of Iran, during wartime."