The Red Sea forms a geopolitical trans-shipment point for much of world trade. The Suez Canal is located in its northern part and the Bab El Mandeb Strait in the southern part. Millions of barrels of oil and other critical goods pass through the Red Sea every year, most of which are destined for North America and Europe. Shipping in this area is subject to “terrorist attacks, covert military action by government agencies and the continuing threat of piracy, with every ship passing through here being watched by an Iranian ship. USNI News, an American portal specializing in maritime issues, writes about it.
Officially Iranian Saviz is a merchant ship, but most likely it is a “secret forward base” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the publication says. Several reports from public sources over the past few years and Saudi officials have indicated that the Saviz is being exploited by Iran’s elite military structure.
“The role of such ships is difficult to prove from open sources, but the conclusion is clear. The Saviz’s presence in the region has no legitimate civilian explanation, and people in uniform have been seen onboard. There are Boston Whaler type boats on the deck of the ship, which is in service with the IRGC,” says USNI News.
The ship is anchored off the Yemeni coast in the southern Red Sea, close to where the Bab El Mandeb Strait forms a natural narrow spot. Automated information system transmissions and analysis of commercial satellite images show that the ship has hardly moved in the last three years. From its position, the ship can provide constant monitoring of movements in the Red Sea area. The narrow waterway to the south of its position displaces tankers into a channel just a couple of nautical miles wide. There have been repeated attacks on tankers in this area, the publication notes.
Some of the attacks may be related to the Yemeni civil war, where Iran is supporting and supplying the forces of the local Shia rebel movement Ansar Allah (Ansar Allah’s Assistants, Husites). In 2018, two Saudi tankers were attacked near the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, apparently by Husites. This forced the state oil company Saudi Aramco to temporarily suspend shipments across the strait. Saudi Arabia may have prevented another attack in March this year. And earlier, in October 2016, the destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) class Arleigh Burke U.S. Navy launched anti-missile to intercept the missiles fired at it and to protect the USS Ponce, the U.S. Navy’s USS base, which is afloat. Saudi Arabia claims that the Saviz could have been involved in several other attacks, passing intelligence to Iran and its Yemeni ally.
Recall that the aerial attack on the facilities of the Saudi Aramco oil company, which on September 14, 2019, which remains as the main version, carried out by Yemeni Husite insurgents, led to a nearly halving of oil production in the largest Arab monarchy. After the attack, Aramco was forced to cut production by 5.7 million barrels per day, which is more than half the Kingdom’s daily production. The strikes disrupted not only oil production but also Saudi Arabia’s raw material exports. About ten drones took part in the attack on oil facilities in the areas of the Abqaiq and Hurys fields, as well as nearby oil refineries in eastern Saudi Arabia. Later, information emerged that the refineries could also have been attacked by cruise missiles. The responsibility for strikes by the USA and Saudi Arabia was laid on Iran. Tehran categorically denies its involvement in the air attack, but the Saudis insist on their own version, calling the evidence they got “Iranian attack” nothing but “irrefutable”.