Zarif also insisted that humanitarian aid must reach areas that are currently cut off from it by ongoing Saudi-led bombings against Houthi targets. But the Saudis and foreign observers report that these bombings have come in response to Houthi troop movements and ground attacks in defiance of the truce.
Iran is suspected of attempting to reach the Houthi with arms shipments, and these suspicions have contributed to international enforcement of a naval blockade of Yemen, which previously forced an Iranian convoy to turn back from its attempts to reach the Gulf of Aden.
Another convoy is now in place outside of the blockade, and Iranian officials have declared that they will not allow foreign entities to inspect the contents. Furthermore, they have rejected requests from multiple entities to off-load their humanitarian shipments at a UN aid hub in Djibouti, across the Bab el-Mandeb Strait from Yemen.
Iran’s latest demands thus appear to constitute a request for a separate Iranian access point for shipments to Yemen, and specifically to active battlefields in Yemen. This is likely to only contribute further to suspicion of Iranian attempts to ship arms and supportive personnel to the Houthi.
Iran’s efforts also constitute what global security consultant Michael Frodl described as Iran’s “testing the limits” of its own aggressive actions along maritime shipping routes. Reuters reports that the supposed aid ship is testing the blockade and is expected to reach port by Thursday. Reuters adds that several Iranian officials have warned that the nation will go to war if the Saudis or any other adversary obstructs the shipment by attacking the vessel.
This comes in addition to the Iranian Navy firing on a Singapore-flagged commercial vessel last week, capturing a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel earlier in May, and shadowing a US-flagged vessel as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz in late April. At that point, the incident was already described by the Pentagon as part of a “pattern of harassment.”
At the same time that Iranian aggression remains prevalent in the waters around the Middle East and particularly around Yemen, the highest ranking Iranian officials continue to use the crises as opportunities to place blame upon their Western adversaries. Zarif’s criticism of the UN is arguably a subtle example of this.
But speaking much more explicitly, the commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari was quoted by Fars News Agency as saying on Monday, “A country has come from the other part of the world and seeks to promote Iranophobia and Islamophobia and intimidates the small Persian Gulf littoral states from Iran and the neighboring states…, and these foreigners are the problem of this region.”
But an anonymous Iranian official quoted by Reuters gives credence to many international analysts’ assessments of the escalating crises in the region, namely that they are the outgrowth of Iran’s pursuit of hegemony in the Middle East. “Iran’s recent measures in the Strait of Hormuz have one clear message to Saudi Arabia. No one can ignore Iran’s key role,” he said. “Whether reformist or hardliner, Iranian leaders have consensus on securing Iran’s influence in the region.”