TEHRAN, (AFP) — Iranian warships entered the Mediterranean Sea after crossing the Suez Canal on Saturday in a move aimed at showing Iran’s “might” to regional countries, navy commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari said.
“The strategic navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed through the Suez Canal for the second time since the (1979) Islamic Revolution,” Sayari said in remarks quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
He did not say how many vessels had crossed the canal, or what missions they were planning to carry out in the Mediterranean, but said the flotilla had previously docked in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
Two Iranian ships, the destroyer Shahid Qandi and supply vessel Kharg, had docked in the Red Sea port on February 4, according to Iranian media.
Sayari said the naval deployment to the Mediterranean would show “the might” of the Islamic republic to regional countries, and also convey Tehran’s “message of peace and friendship.”
The announcement comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme and rising speculation that Israel might launch pre-emptive strikes against Iranian facilities.
The first Iranian presence in the Mediterranean in February 2011 provoked strong reactions from Israel and the United States, with the Jewish state putting its navy on alert.
Iran’s navy has been boosting its presence in international waters since last year, deploying vessels to the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden on missions to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.