By Jack Phillips
Iran on Wednesday again warned the United States and its allies amid recent military moves in the region as the Israel–Hamas conflict continues.
In a statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the United States and Israel should not engage in “adventurism” that could expand their military presence in the Middle East.
Iran “issues a stern warning against any US adventurism that could endanger regional peace,” Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani said in a letter to the U.S. and coalition forces, according to state-run Iranian media, claiming that allegations that Iran is backing Yemen’s Houthis are taking “international attention away from the root causes of the current situation in the Red Sea.”
“The allegations are unsubstantiated and lack evidence. The Islamic Republic of Iran has always placed great importance on maritime security and freedom of navigation and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to upholding its international obligations and maintaining peace and security in the region,” the letter read.
On Jan. 1, Iran deployed its Alborz warship to the Bab al-Mandeb Strait near the Red Sea. A statement from the country a the time stated that its nay has been operating in the region “to secure shipping lanes, repel pirates, among other purposes since 2009.”
It comes as the Houthis have launched more and more attacks in the Red Sea, sometimes targeting commercial vehicles. Several major container ship operators have said they would not travel in the region as long as the attacks persist, while the United States more than a week ago retaliated against Houthi boats who attacked a Maersk ship in the region.
On Wednesday, Houthi militants fired their largest-ever barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea, forcing the U.S. and British navies to shoot down the projectiles in a major naval engagement, authorities said. No damage was immediately reported.
The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis came despite a planned United Nations Security Council vote later Wednesday to potentially condemn and demand an immediate halt to the attacks by the rebels, who say their assaults are aimed at stopping Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
However, their targets increasingly have little or no connection to Israel and imperil a crucial trade route linking Asia and the Middle East with Europe. That raises the risk of a U.S. retaliatory strike on Yemen that could upend an uneasy cease-fire that has held in the Arab world’s poorest country.
The assault happened off the Yemeni port cities of Hodeida and Mokha, according to the private intelligence firm Ambrey. In the Hodeida attack, Ambrey said ships described over radio seeing missiles and drones, with U.S.-allied warships in the area urging “vessels to proceed at maximum speed.”
The U.S. military’s Central Command said the “complex attack” launched by the Houthis included bomb-carrying drones, anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile.
It said 18 drones, two cruise missiles, and the anti-ship missile were downed by F-18s from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as by American Arleigh Burke-class destroyers the USS Gravely, the USS Laboon and the USS Mason, as well as the United Kingdom’s HMS Diamond.
“This is the 26th Houthi attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since Nov. 19,” Central Command said. “There were no injuries or damage reported.”
Later Wednesday, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the Iranian-backed group fired naval and ballistic missiles at a U.S. warship, claiming it was supporting Israel. He did not say whether it struck the ship or caused any damage, reported Reuters.
A U.S.-led coalition of nations has been patrolling the Red Sea to try and prevent the attacks. There’s been no broad retaliatory strike yet, despite warnings from the United States However, Tuesday’s attack appeared to be testing what response, if any, would come from Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday warned that the attacks will trigger “consequences” for the Houthis.
“I’m not going to telegraph or preview anything that that might happen,” Mr. Blinken told reporters in Bahrain. “We’ve made clear, we’ve been clear with more than 20 other countries that if it continues, as it did yesterday, there will be consequences.”
It’s because the attacks represent “a clear threat to the interests of countries around the world. And it’s important that the international community come together and respond to them,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.