After taking Yemen’s capital two years ago, the Islamic Repub- lic is now shifting its focus from land to sea.
A massive fireball erupts from the stern of the warship, sending out an instantaneous shock wave that rocks the camera. A second later the fiery explosion turns black as smoke billows skyward. The Arabic voiceover re- turns, this time with much more fervor: “God is great! Death to America! Death to Israel! Curse the Jews! Victory for Islam!”
This was the scene in the southern Red Sea in late January when Iranian-backed Houthi militiamen successfully rammed an unmanned, explosive- laden boat into the side of a Saudi frigate, killing two sailors and an- nouncing to the world that the militia’s arsenal now includes naval drones.
A few months earlier on October 1, the weapon was different, but the chants were the same. However, instead of a naval drone causing the car- nage, it was a C-802 antiship missile, made by the Chinese, reverse en- gineered by the Iranians, and fired by the Houthis. This time, it was a Uni- ted Arab Emirates-operated hsv-2 Swift advanced transport vessel that was destroyed.
A week after that, the most powerful navy in the world was the target. On October 9, the Houthis picked a fight with the uss Mason—far out of its weight class, but they had no fear. The militia launched two land-based cruise missiles at the Mason, an American destroyer stationed just north of the sea’s critical southern choke point, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The Mason was forced into defensive measures including the firing of three of its own missiles to intercept the Houthis’ missiles. The attack was foiled, but the Houthis were undeterred, and within the same week launched two more missile attacks against the Mason.
In March, the United States Office of Naval Intelligence warned that the Houthi militia had upped the ante by deploying naval mines in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The U.S. Navy said it would remove the mines, but it didn’t happen fast enough. On March 10, a Yemen Coast Guard vessel hit a mine and exploded, killing two sailors and injuring eight others.
Naval mines, drone attack boats, cruise missiles: These are the latest wea- pons used in Iran’s quest to control the southern Red Sea passageway.
These latest actions by the Houthi militia prove that Iran is making pro- gress in controlling this waterway. Along with the uptick in its actions a- gainst naval targets through its Houthi proxy, Iran is directly exerting po- wer over the southern Red Sea.
In late February, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy conducted a large- scale exercise in the northern Indian Ocean. Operation Velayat 95 inclu- ded operations in an area of nearly 800,000 square miles, from the Strait of Hormuz leading into the Persian Gulf, around the Arabian Peninsula to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait leading into the Red Sea. This is an annual war drill for the Iranian Navy. However, the drill this year was different from the one last year in one notable way: This was the first time the exercises extended to the Bab el-Mandeb.
Geopolitical Futures wrote that the inclusion of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait “offers a window into Iranian strategy,” explaining that “Iran’s recent na- val exercises indicate that Iran could be preparing to take advantage of a distracted United States should conflict in the South China Sea or else- where take place.” […]
“Iran is adding the Bab el-Mandeb to the theaters in which the country feels it must be capable of operating. There are no precise details on what Iran has deployed, but in this case, the specifics of the deployment are less important than observing that Iran now considers the Bab el-Mandeb part of its immediate strategic environment”.
Iranian ambition in the Bab el-Mandeb is natural considering one of its leaders claimed dominance over the waterways following the 2011 Houthi uprising. “We in the axis of resistance are the new sultans of the Medi- terranean and the Gulf,” said Mohammed Sadeq al-Hosseini, adviser to former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. “We in Tehran, Damas- cus, Hezbollah’s southern suburb of Beirut, Baghdad and Sanaa will shape the region. We are the new sultans of the Red Sea as well.”
Iran’s Strategy in Yemen
Gerald Flurry wrote in 2015 that the “Houthi takeover in Yemen proves that Iran is implementing a bold strategy to control the vital sea lane from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea” (op cit). This was at a time when most commentators were focusing on the Houthi rebellion as an attempt to take over land and destabilize Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, which is Yemen’s northern neighbor. But Mr. Flurry foresaw that Iran’s interest in the Houthi uprising was aimed at a vital strategic goal: domination of the southern Red Sea passage.
Iran is completely aware of the strategic significance of this gate. On Jan. 17, 2015, the Iranian state-sponsored Tasnim News Agency published an article that boldly proclaimed: “Today, all the arteries of oil transport — from Bab el-Mandeb Strait to Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz — are under Iranian control, by means of Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, and within range of Iranian missiles” (Middle East Media Research Institute transla- tion).
Two months later, on March 2, the irgc weekly, Sobh-e Sadeq, wrote, “… Yemen has a highly sensitive geopolitical status, stemming in part from its location in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Man- deb. [Yemen’s] location links East with West. These days, Europe imports 3.5 million barrels of oil through these straits, and if the crisis in Yemen worsens and Bab el-Man- deb is closed, it would create a dangerous situation.”
Iran is fully aware that controlling this gate will give it virtual control of the trade through these seas.
The strategic importance of controlling this strait is equal to controlling the crucial Suez Canal, since every ship that sails between Asia and Eu- rope through the Red Sea must go through both of these passages. If sai- ling from the Persian Gulf this route is 43 percent shorter than sailing around the continent of Africa, which makes it the most affordable route and saves shipping companies millions of dollars.
For this reason, roughly 20,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal and Bab el-Mandeb each year—an average of 55 per day. About 15 percent of all global maritime trade and nearly 10 percent of global seaborne oil pas- ses through the gates of the Red Sea.
More specifically, almost all of the trade between Europe and Asia is sea- borne and travels through the Bab el-Mandeb sea gate. That amounts to almost $700 billion worth of trade per year that Iran could conceivably delay, sabotage, or stop dead in the water.
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with cha- riots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over” (Daniel 11:40).
According to this verse, at the time of the end this “king of the south” is going to push at the king of the north. Since 1994, Gerald Flurry has forecast that Iran would grow to become the dominant power in the Mid- dle East, heading up a powerful alliance of radical Islamic nations known as the king of the south. The king of the north in this prophecy is a united Europe led by Germany. While the world is mostly blind to it, some in Europe are waking up to Iran’s plan to capture the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The Europeans see that this strategy and Iran’s overall strategy of aggressiveness and terror is a definite push. And Europe will eventually push back.
Continue to watch for Iran to strengthen its presence inside Yemen, as well as in the waters around the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Here lies the very beginning of the prophesied push that leads into a global conflict.