Iran quietly replaced spy ship damaged in April mine attack, reports show
- Tehran pulled back “Saviz”, accompanied by two tugs, shortly after “Behshad” took his place.
- Iran claimed Saviz was helping with anti-piracy operations, but suspected of being a spy ship
- Red Sea region in turmoil after escalating Israeli-Iranian maritime war
Months after its spy ship “Saviz” was attacked by Israeli forces in the Red Sea, Iran quietly replaced the ship with a similar vessel to gather intelligence on the strategically crucial waterway.
The “Behshad”, an Iranian vessel registered as a general cargo ship, left the port of Bandar Abbas in early July, CNN reported, citing two unnamed US officials. The ship reached the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a crucial waterway that controls access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, nine days later, according to the report, based on information from ImageSat International, a Israeli satellite and intelligence company.
Tehran then brought ‘Saviz’ back to Iran, accompanied by two tugs. ‘Saviz’ had been patrolling the Red Sea for five years until he was hit by a limpet mine near the Yemeni coast in April.
While Iran claimed that “Saviz” was helping Iranian commandos against pirate attacks, the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war said it was a collection vessel. intelligence linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and had assisted the Houthis in Yemen. Although there was no official response from Jerusalem to the attack, Iran blamed Israel for the attack on the mine.
In 2018, President Donald Trump sanctioned both “Saviz” and “Behshad” as part of his campaign against Iran.
According to CNN, the United States was monitoring the entire operation, as recent maritime disputes have fueled tensions in the region. Earlier this month, an Israeli condominium vessel, the tanker MT Mercer Street, was hit in the northern Indian Ocean in what Israel and the United States called a “drone-type attack” . Two crew members died in the attack.
Although Iran denied any involvement in the attack, the United States and Israel pushed the UN to act against “Iranian terrorism.”
The situation worsened last week, after Asphalt Princess, an asphalt and bitumen tanker, was reportedly hijacked in the Gulf of Oman. The United States then said it suspected Iranian involvement in the incident.
“We believe these personnel were Iranian, but we are unable to confirm at this time,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington after the incident.
“Iran has embarked on a model of belligerence in terms of proxy attacks in the region and of course those maritime attacks,” Price said.
However, Iran maintained that the “incidents reported in the Persian Gulf and the wider region appeared to be highly suspect.”