Iranian Ship Hit by Mines in Red Sea as Nuclear Talks Begin
(Bloomberg) - An Iranian flag ship was attacked in the Red Sea, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said the same day Tehran and world powers including the US met to discuss restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
The New York Times reported that Israel was responsible.
Saviz, stationed in the Red Sea, was damaged by an explosion near the coast of Djibouti at around 6 a.m. local time on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on Wednesday.
He said the cause of the explosion is being investigated and that the Saviz is a non-military ship that provides security for shipping lanes and counteracts piracy in the area. No casualties were reported, said Khatibzadeh. On Tuesday, the Tasnim news agency announced that limpets had exploded on the hull of the Saviz and that the ship was frequently using Iranian command boats to escort merchant ships. It was not stated where the information came from.
Israel informed the US that its forces had hit the Saviz, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified American official. The Israeli government rejects the 2015 nuclear deal and does not want the US to lift sanctions against the Islamic Republic without a new deal affecting Tehran's ballistic missile program and regional proxies.
Tuesday's attack came as Iranian officials gathered in Vienna to negotiate restoration of the dying deal to curb Iranian nuclear activity. Former US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from this deal in 2018 exacerbated tensions in the Middle East and led to an increase in attacks on ships, often blamed on Iran.
The latest incident stems from multiple attacks involving Iranian and Israeli ships over the past month. On March 25, Israel's Channel 12 announced that a ship registered in Israel had been hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea. Ten days earlier, Iran had blamed Israel for an explosion on a container ship in the Mediterranean.
Iran accuses Israel of blasting container ship in the Mediterranean Sea
Shaul Chorev, head of the University of Haifa's Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Center and former deputy chief of the Israeli Navy, said the move was likely intended to warn Iran of future attacks on Israeli ships rather than undermining negotiations in Vienna. He added that Israel should expect Iranian retribution on a waterway that serves as a major trade route.
A third of Israeli imports and exports go "across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden," Chorev said, questioning whether the Israeli Navy would be able to protect all of the nation's shipping.
The US Central Command, which maintains the armed forces in the area, was not involved, Erin Dorrance, deputy head of the media department, said in a phone call.
(Updates with comments from the former Israeli Navy official.)
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