Iranian warships enter Suez Canal as wary Israel looks on
Published 19/02/2012 | 05:00
IRAN sent two warships to the Mediterranean Sea yesterday as tensions with Israel worsened and a senior American official arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Iranian ships passed through the Suez Canal for only the second time since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Reports last night said they had docked in Tartus, the main port for Iran's embattled ally regime, Syria, which has been convulsed by an uprising for almost a year.
"The strategic navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed through the Suez Canal for the second time since the (1979) Islamic revolution," said navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari.
He claimed that Iran was showing its "might" to regional countries -- with Israel being the country that Iran wants to impress the most.
The admiral claimed that the mission sent a "message of peace and friendship." However, Israel immediately put its navy on alert.
The deployment raised tensions with Israel at a dangerous time, with speculation growing that air strikes are being prepared against Iran's nuclear programme.
Dan Fayutkin, an Israeli expert in military strategy, said the move risked a war.
"Any military move made now by either Israel or Iran would be hostile," he said.
Iranian spokesmen did not say how many vessels had passed through the canal or what missions they were planning, but said the flotilla had previously docked in the Saudi port of Jeddah.
Two Iranian ships, the destroyer Shahid Qandi and supply vessel Kharg, docked in the Red Sea port on February 4, according to Iranian media.
In February last year, two Iranian vessels passed through the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979.
Iran's navy has been used for sabre-rattling several times in recent months, especially in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where it faces the power of US naval forces.