Iran: Attack on Yemen-Bound Ship ‘Will Spark War in the Region’

Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares before leaving Iran's waters, at the Strait of Hormuz
Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares before leaving Iran's waters, at the Strait of Hormuz / AP

Iranian military leaders are warning that any efforts to block passage of a supposed aid ship heading for Yemen "will spark war in the region," according to multiple regional reports.

Iran will not permit its Yemen-bound ship to be inspected by any outside countries, a move that could complicate U.S. efforts to stop Tehran from smuggling weapons and other munitions to Yemeni rebels.

The warning also was sent to the Saudi Arabian government, which is positioned against Iran in the fight raging in Yemen.

"The countries involved in war against Yemen are no way allowed to inspect the Islamic Republic of Iran's ship which is carrying humanitarian aid," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said in a statement on Wednesday published by the country’s state-run media.

The comments came on the heels of other incendiary comments by Iranian military leaders warning that any efforts to block the country’s ships from passing to Yemen will result in a regional war.

The Pentagon revealed on Tuesday that it is tracking Iran’s shipment and would not prevent the country from delivering humanitarian aid. However, other countries believe the shipments are a cover for the delivery of weapons to revels.

"Attacking the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region," Iranian General Massoud Jazzayeri was quoted as telling Arabic media late Tuesday. "And this fire may not be put out or brought under control."

Iran’s Defense Ministry also lashed out at the United States on Wednesday in a statement meant to intimidate Western forces from interfering with the Islamic Republic’s efforts in waters near Yemen.

"The U.S. is an accomplice to the war criminals by supporting genocide in Yemen and the Iranian people's food and drug aid is a humanitarian move to soothe the oppressed Yemeni people's pains," the Defense Ministry statement said.

Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren told reporters on Tuesday, "the Iranians have stated that this is humanitarian aid."

"If that is the case," Warren said, "then we certainly encourage the Iranians to deliver that humanitarian aid to the United Nations humanitarian aid distribution hub, which has been established in Djibouti."

However, Iran is refusing to divert its ship.

The country’s Defense Ministry referred to the Pentagon’s comments as "illogical" and maintained that there are no guarantees that the aid would actually make it Yemen.

Meanwhile, Iranian state-controlled media claimed that one of its warships off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden "locked its missile systems on an invading vessel" and ordered it out of the area.

"The Iranian destroyer's missile systems locked on the target after an invading high-speed boat appeared on the monitor screens of the radar systems in Alborz operations room," Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.

"The invading vessel changed course and returned to the coast after the Iranian destroyer warned it would target the vessel in seconds," the report stated.

"If the terrorists ignored our warning, they would be killed with the first bullets of Alborz," Commodore Hassan Maqsoudlou, the captain of the Iranian destroyer, was quoted as saying about the incident.

Iran has continued to stoke tensions with the United States over its military presence near Yemen.

"We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal and is simple to digest for us; we welcome war with the U.S. as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power," Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Hossein Salami threatened last week.

Pentagon and military officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Iran’s statements.