Should We Be Worried About Iran's Gaza-Bound Flotilla?

Some analysts are bracing for a Mediterranean confrontation

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Weeks after the Israeli raid on a predominantly Turkish flotilla to Gaza became an international incident, Iran has announced that it will send its own flotilla to the blockaded territory. Unlike Turkey, which is one of Israel's most important allies, Iran is openly hostile toward Israel. The plight of Palestinians has long been a cause célèbre for leadership in Tehran, which seeks to pressure Israel and promote Iranian influence among Arabs. While some worry Iran could send a naval escort with the aid ships, thus raising the possibility of violence, this would require Egypt's approval to pass through Sinai. What can we expect to result?

  • U.S. Concerned About Iranian Intentions  The Agence France-Presse reports, "United States on Monday questioned the Iranian Red Crescent's decision to send aid ships to Gaza, saying Tehran's intentions toward the Palestinian territory were not 'benign.' ... The Iranian Red Crescent announced Monday it would send three ships with humanitarian aid to Gaza, in the latest bid to break the blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory by Iran's arch foe Israel."
  • Or Are They?  Newsweek's Mark Hosenball dissents, "U.S and European officials seem surprisingly relaxed about news that Iran is sending its own seaborne challenge to Israel’s Gaza blockade. ... despite concern that the Iranians are sending the ship in a deliberate attempt to provoke the Israelis and worsen already severe tensions in the area, European and U.S. officials say Tehran actually seems to have dialed back some of its rhetoric and threats for the moment."
  • Do They Want Violent Confrontation?  The Christian Science Monitor's Scott Peterson writes, "Analysts say that Iran’s reaction – including Ahmadinejad’s repeated reminders that the Islamic Republic has championed the Palestinian cause since the 1979 Islamic revolution – is designed to recapture from Turkey part of its self-declared role as the regional bastion of militant resistance that fights for the oppressed. ... If Iran were to send such a flotilla, it would likely steal the limelight back from the Turks only in the event of a similar confrontation."
  • Empty 'Propaganda Game'  Iran analyst Ali Nourizadeh tells Voice of America, "I think the whole matter is just a propaganda game. Iran knows that the Israelis would not allow them to get close to Israeli territory and even the Egyptians would not welcome them, and that the Iranian parliamentarians have to obtain visas to go to Egypt and I do not think the Egyptians would welcome such a delegation. Iran lost the propaganda game to Turkey and they just want to say that they are there."
  • Iran Denies Military Role  Al Jazeera reports, "[Iranian aid official] Nouraee said that the ships would sail without protective security because the Iranians 'do not want to fight'. His comments came after General Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied a report on Monday that its naval forces would escort the Iranian ships, Iran's Fars News Agency reported. Abdul Rauf Adibzadeh, the Red Crescent director for international affairs, told [news agency] Irna that the vessels will carry 'food, medication and medical equipments'. He said the Red Crescent has called for Iranian volunteers to act as relief workers and accompany the vessels."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.