The Iranian 'arms ship'

The Iranian embassy in Yemen has now given its own versionof the "arms ship" affair (see previous post).

It says the vessel (there is still no disclosure of its size, type or name) normally operates in the Caspian Sea and had gone to Sharjah in the UAE for maintenance. It was returning to Iran with no cargo of any kind, on a route taking it back to the Caspian via the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea (and, presumably, the Volga-Don canal).

According to the embassy there were originally five Iranians and two Indians on board; one of the Indians died and the vessel had to spend a week in Oman sorting out the paperwork for that.

So far,Yemen has said very little about the affair officially, peddling the line that all will be revealed in due course when investigations are completed. This might be because the story is less significant than it first appeared to be – but I'm keeping an open mind about that. The other possibility, which may be more likely, is that there are diplomatic goings-on behind the scenes and the Yemenis are trying not to aggrave the situation by saying much in public.

If we accept the Yemeni claim that the Houthi rebels are being armed by rogue elements in Iran rather than the Iranian government, it would make sense not to embarrass the Iranian government while cajoling them into action against these rogue elements. But we shall have to wait and see.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 30 October 2009.