A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The TR and that "Iranian Flotilla"

There has been a lot of attention paid to the US decision to move the USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group in the general direction of Yemen, amid US reports indicating an Iranian "flotilla" said to be escorting merchant ships in the general direction of Bab al-Mandab. Now Iran routinely keeps vessels on anti-piracy duty in the area due to the threat of Somali piracy, and the Theodore Roosevelt (fondly nicknamed "the Big Stick") is reinforcing what is already a considerable US naval presence in the region.

Now, when tensions are high and potentially hostile vessels are gathering in the Tonkin  Gulf Arabian Sea, it's understandable for the media to hype tensions, but the emerging narrative is suggesting that the Iranian "flotilla" is escorting an arms shipment to the Houthis is, as a defense lawyer would say, asserting facts not in evidence. Despite multiple assertions and repetitions that Iran is arming the Houthis," no one has demonstrated that to be true, and there is a Saudi/Egyptian blockading force in place.

Brian Whittaker, for one, provides us with a reality check on this emerging narrative: "Cat and Mouse in the Red Sea." He shares my doubts about the emerging narrative, and concludes:
Meanwhile, the Iranians seem to be almost inviting the US to search their little “armada” – which suggests that whatever game they are playing may be more political than military.
 Both sides should tread carefully, but let's not overdramatize or assume facts not yet in evidence.

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