Iranian ship used as Revolutionary Guard base near Yemen is attacked ‘by Israel’
- The MV Saviz was attacked on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed
- It is thought to be a base for the Revolutionary Guard but has been described by Iran as both a commercial ship and a vessel aiding ‘anti-piracy’ efforts
- A US media report cited an unnamed US military source as saying Israel had informed the US that it had carried out the attack
- The US has said it was aware of media coverage of the attack and that no US forces were involved. Israel is yet to comment
- The attack comes as Iran and world powers meet in Vienna to discuss the potential US return to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal
An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the Revolutionary Guard has been attacked.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the Tuesday attack on the MV Saviz, which has been anchored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for years.
The assault, which is suspected to have been carried out by Israel, came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the US potentially rejoining a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran and others.
‘Fortunately, no casualties were reported … and technical investigations are underway,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.
‘Our country will take all necessary measures through international authorities.’
Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the Guard, reported the attack late on Tuesday, saying explosives planted on the hull of the Saviz had exploded.
It did not blame anyone for the attack and said Iranian officials likely would offer more information in the coming days.
In an earlier state TV statement, an anchor cited a New York Times story, which quoted an anonymous US official telling the newspaper that Israel informed America it carried out an attack on Tuesday morning on the vessel.
An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the Revolutionary Guard has been attacked. Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the Tuesday attack on the MV Saviz, which has been anchored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for years. Pictured: The Saviz in an October 2020 satellite photo [File photo]
The ship’s long presence in the area is believed to be connected to Iran’s alleged backing of Houthi rebel forces in Yemen’s years long war
In a separate statement, the US military’s Central Command only said it was ‘aware of media reporting of an incident involving the Saviz in the Red Sea.’
‘We can confirm that no U.S. forces were involved in the incident,’ the command said. ‘We have no additional information to provide.’
Israeli officials declined to comment on the incident when contacted by The Associated Press, as did the Saviz’s owner.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought up Iran in a Tuesday speech to his Likud party after being asked to form a government following Israel’s recent election.
‘We must not go back to the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran, because a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to the state of Israel and a great threat to the security of the entire world,’ Netanyahu said.
Israel was not part of the historic nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Iran, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, the UK, Russia, China, France – plus Germany and the European Union.
The ship’s long presence in the area has been repeatedly criticised by Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition that is presiding over a bloody intervention into Yemen’s years long civil war.
The West and United Nations experts say Iran has provided arms and support to the country’s Houthi rebels who are fighting the Saudi-backed government forces.
Iran denies arming the Houthis, though components found in the rebels’ weaponry link back to Tehran.
Iran has previously described the Saviz’s role as aiding in ‘anti-piracy’ efforts in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a crucial choke point in international shipping.
In his statement, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh referred to the ship as a commercial vessel.
The Saviz is owned by the state-linked Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and came to the Red Sea in late 2016, according to ship-tracking data.
In the years since, it has drifted off the Dahlak archipelago, a chain of islands off the coast of the nearby African nation of Eritrea in the Red Sea.
It likely received supply replenishments and switched crew via passing Iranian vessels using the waterway.
Briefing materials from the Saudi military earlier obtained by the AP showed men on the vessel dressed in camouflage, military-style fatigues, as well as small boats capable of ferrying cargo to the Yemeni coast.
That briefing material also included pictures showing a variety of antennas on the vessel that the Saudi government described as unusual for. commercial cargo ship, suggesting it conducted electronic surveillance.
Other images showed that the ship had mounts for .50-caliber machine guns.
The assault on the ship came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the US potentially rejoining a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran and others. Pictured: Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazem Gharib Abadi, leaves after the Iran nuclear talks on Tuesday in Vienna, Austria
The Washington Institute for Near-East Policy has called the Saviz an ‘Iranian mothership’ in the region, similarly describing it as an intelligence-gathering base and an armoury for the Guard.
Police papers from the institute don’t explain how it came to that conclusion, though its analysts routinely have access to Gulf and Israeli military sources.
The Saviz had been under international sanctions until the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran receive economic relief in exchange for limiting its enrichment of uranium.
The Trump administration later renewed American sanctions on the ship as part of its decision to unilaterally withdraw from the accord.
In June 2019, Saudi Arabia flew a critically ill Iranian off the Saviz after Tehran made a request through the United Nations for assistance.
Amid the wider tensions between the US and Iran, a series of mysterious blasts have targeted ships in the region, including some the US Navy blamed on Iran.
Among the ships damaged recently was an Israeli-owned car carrier in an attack Netanyahu blamed on Iran.
Another was an Iranian cargo ship in the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran also blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion in July that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Another is the November killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear programme two decades ago.
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