Well-Placed Iran News Site Says Third Party Involved In Red Sea Attack
In an exclusive report published on Thursday, a news website apparently affiliated to the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani, claimed that a third country was involved in the April 6 attack on an Iranian vessel in the Red Sea. Tehran has already accused Israel.
The report includes new details about the attack, which took place as talks continue in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers. Nour News said its report was based on the testimony of a crew member and published several pictures purportedly showing the inside of the cargo vessel, MV Saviz.
"One of the crew members told Nour News reporter that an unidentified helicopter had been patrolling above Saviz the day before the attack for five to ten minutes," Nour News reported. The sailor also said that around four hours after the attack, between 10 and 11am local time, two unidentified speedboats had circled the ship.
"There is a possibility of involvement of another country [beside Israel] in the incident to support the attack on the Iranian ship, Saviz, if an unidentified helicopter was involved in it," Nour News said.
Nour News did not suggest who the third party might be. The Red Sea is not short of military suspects. The multinational Combined Task Force 150, operating from the US naval base in Bahrain, and Operational Atlanta, are both involved in maritime security operations including the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which has supposedly withdrawn from its base in Assab, Eritrea – are other possibilities. Israel, while not a third party, has reportedly established a forward operation base in Eritrea.
Pentagon spokesperson Jessica McNulty in a statement to The Hill denied that US forces were involved. “We have no additional information to provide,” she said. An anonymous American official told the New York Times on Wednesday that Israel had called the attack retaliation for earlier strikes on Israeli vessels.
The vessel suffered below-waterline damage from a limpet mine. Images published by Tasnim news agency showed parts of the ship on fire. Tasnim reported on Wednesday that the Saviz had been stationed in the Red Sea "for the past few years to support Iranian commandos sent on the commercial vessel (anti-piracy) escort missions.”
Nour News gives extensive coverage to news related to Shamkhani, and its commentaries are believed to reflect Shamkhani's views. The news website - which publishes in Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and English was launched in early 2020 – often includes exclusive reports on security matters including news about Iranian forces abroad.
The strike on the Saviz was the latest in a reported series of attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned cargo ships since late February in which the two accused each other of responsibility. In late February 2020, the Israeli vehicle-carrier ship MV Helios Ray suffered an explosion.
Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria, where domestic oil fields have been occupied by the US. An apparent attack on an Iranian vessel in the Mediterranean in February led to extensive pollution of Lebanon’s shoreline.
These incidents have occurred since US President Joe Biden took office in January with a commitment to re-join world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran - abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel. Iran and remaining signatories of the 2015 deal began talks on Tuesday, with indirect US involvement, on reviving the deal. Israeli and US opponents of the nuclear deal have justified attacks on Iranian oil vessels on the grounds that any Iranian income is used to fund ‘terrorism.’