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War Update: It would appear that while Iranian-backed Shia-Salafist forces in Yemen continue their advance, despite withering air attacks by Sunni Arab forces led by Saudi Arabia, efforts are underway to clear the areas around Yemen of Iranian forces.

AlRiyadh_1-700x458

The Al Riyadh Class Frigate of the Saudi Navy. The Al Riyadh Class are based on the French Lafayette Frigates. There are three vessels in the Al Riyadh Class.

During an encounter at the Bab el-Mandab Strait, which is at the botom of the Red Sea between Yemen and Djibitou, Egyptian Fast Attack Craft fired warning shots at an un-named Iranian "naval vessel" which was making for the quarantine zone declared by the Saudis. The encounter reveals that Iran is actively seeking to resupply its proxy forces in Yemen and is determined to push through the current blockade.

In this incident, the Iranian vessel, most likely an up-armed Frigate escorted by a support ship, turned away but did not leave the area, leading to fears that it will make a run for the port of Aiden. The possibility that the Egyptians may attempt to interdict the supply ship being escorted by these Iranian naval units and seize its contents would be an escalation, but it would also reveal the extreme limits of the Iranian Navy.

Chinese Frigate in Aiden on March 28 evacuating Chinese nationals- Saudi Arabia has declared the area  a "no go zone" and the Chinese have exited the area.

Chinese Frigate in Aiden on March 28 evacuating Chinese nationals- Saudi Arabia has declared the area a "no go zone" and the Chinese have exited the area.

Without an ability to transit sea lanes, Iran's ability to support efforts abroad, including Yemen, would be severely curtailed. Aside from lateral warfare, namely sending terrorist cells to attack its enemies from within, in any naval contest the Iranians lack the wherewithal to project power outside of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. But the Iranians will feel compelled to respond to this blockade as, if the precedence holds, it could become a model for Arab powers to follow: effectively clearing the sea lanes of Iranian traffic. The implications are immense for Iran, which depends on sea born trade for exports that generate cash and imports of many vital supplies.

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The next step in the war against Salafism is a potential de facto blockade of Iranian sea born traffic. It is unlikely to be announced formerly or to be acknowledged as "official policy", but if the blockade around Yemen, which targets Iran particularly, works it is anticipated that this policy will be pursued in general.

Once again the United States has had NO say in this matter- the policy decisions eminated from Cairo, not from Washington, and the Americans merely responded by making supportive noises while mid-level officials grumbled about their decreased influence in the region in the face of President Obama's seeming retreat. (It should be noted, some analysts applaud the President's studious avoidance of dominating policy as a means of compelling regional powers to take responsibility for their own security.)

While this incident, unreported in most open source media, is an escalation, it is not a significant departure from the unspoken but real policies of Iran's regional foes. The fact this incident is occurring even as the US negotiates what many see as a very lenient nuclear deal with Iran seems surreal to local observers. On one hand, Iran is aggressively seeking to overthrow neighboring governments, on the other hand the US is giving legitimacy to Iran which will improve its economy and increase its ability to influence the region and the world.

The Iranian Navy poses no real threat outside of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, but Iran's ability and willingness to utilize lateral warfare as a response to this incident cannot be overlooked.

See our report on the emerging war on Salafism,  CLICK here.

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