After new US strikes hitting Yemen, Iran issues a warning about suspected spy ships in the Mideast

Iran issued a warning Sunday to the U.S. over potentially targeting two cargo ships in the Mideast long suspected of serving as forwarding operating base for Iranian commandos, just after America and the United Kingdom launched a massive airstrike campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Yemen strikes overnight Sunday struck across six provinces of Yemen held by the Houthi rebels, including in Sanaa, the capital. The Houthis gave no assessment of the damage but the U.S. described hitting underground missile arsenals, launch sites and helicopters used by the rebels.

“These attacks will not discourage Yemeni forces and the nation from maintaining their support for Palestinians in the face of the Zionist occupation and crimes,” Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said. “The aggressors’ airstrikes will not go unanswered.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned the Houthis after the strikes that “they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels.” That message was echoed by British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said: “The Houthi attacks must stop.”

The Behshad and Saviz are registered as commercial cargo ships with a Tehran-based company the U.S. Treasury has sanctioned as a front for the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. The Saviz, then later the Behshad, have loitered for years in the Red Sea off Yemen, suspected of serving as spy positions for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Footage aired by Saudi-owned television channels showed the vessel armed with what appeared to be a covered machine gun bolted to the ship’s deck.

In the video statement Sunday by the Iran’s regular army, a narrator for the first time describes the vessels as “floating armories.” The narrator describes the Behshad as aiding an Iranian mission to “counteract piracy in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.” However, Iran is not publicly known to have taken part in any of the recent campaigns against rising Somali piracy in the region off the back of the Houthi attacks.

Just before the new campaign of U.S. airstrikes began, the Behshad traveled south into the Gulf of Aden. It’s now docked in Djibouti in East Africa just off the coast from a Chinese military base in the country.

The statement ends with a warning overlaid with a montage of footage of U.S. warships and an American flag.

“Those engaging in terrorist activities against Behshad or similar vessels jeopardize international maritime routes, security and assume global responsibility for potential future international risks,”

The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the threat.

The Saviz, which is now in the Indian Ocean near where the U.S. alleges Iranian drone attacks recently have targeted shipping, has come under attack before

Culled from Yahoo Online Mail