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Iran’s Defense Minister Warns Against Protecting Red Sea Shipping from Houthi Attacks

The Bab al-Mandab Strait derives its name from the historical dangers of its navigation.
Iranian Defence Minister General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani. EFE-EPA
Iranian Defence Minister General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani. EFE-EPA

On Thursday, Iranian Defense Minister, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, criticized a proposed multinational task force to safeguard international shipping in the Red Sea.

Speaking to the state-controlled Iranian Student News Agency, Ashtiani said that any U.S. backed effort to stop the repeated attacks on merchant ships by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen would face "extraordinary problems," because according to the Minister, "nobody can make a move in a region where we have predominance."

The comments were in reference to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan telling reporters last week that the U.S. was in negotiations with other countries in regard to forming a naval task force, "to ensure safe passage of ships in the Red Sea."

Since the Hamas invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, the Houthi militants have been firing missiles toward Eilat and conducting unrestrictive warfare on civilian vessels that they believe are linked to Israeli interests.

Most of the incursions have been reported near the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a 16-mile-across body of water that separates Yemen from Djibouti and Eritrea. Sailors must navigate this waterway in order to enter the Red Sea or transverse the Suez Canal. The critical trade route transports 12% of the world's total seaborn oil.

Currently, the regional maritime security is comprised of a small number of U.S. and French warships.

On the same day as Ashtiani's warning, Danish transport company Maersk announced that one of their container ships, Maersk Gibraltar, was a victim of another missile launched from Yemen. No injuries were reported in what was the third intrusion against a merchant vessel in the area this week.

Related Story: French Navy Ship Attacked by Drones Fired from Yemen

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