London, 17 August – An Iranian ship, the Saviz near Bab-el-Mandeb raised suspicions because of its obviously non-commercial activity. The ship falls under the lifted sanctions within the nuclear deal, but US officials inspected it and determined that it was likely transporting weaponry or was being used for military purposes. Experts believe that it will be returned to the list of US sanctions against Tehran in the second batch scheduled for next November.
The Saviz was delisted from US sanctions as part of the effort to implement the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, US officials confirmed.
Possible sanctions against the Saviz and other Iranian vessels are part of a broader package of sanctions expected to be imposed on November 5th, according to the officials. Sanctions are believed to be targeting Iran’s port operations, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, as well as other affiliates.
Satellite photos show that for more than a year, the Saviz has been anchored in the Red Sea near the Strait of Bab Al-Mandeb in international waters.
According to Iranian news outlets, many of the weapons given to the Houthi militias were carried by speedboats from the same vessel.
The Saviz is additionally equipped with a radar rarely seen on cargo ships, used to steer the Houthi militias’ boats when attacking Saudi oil tankers.
“The Iranians aren’t even trying to disguise the military use of the ship,” said one US official with knowledge of the matter. “You don’t need classified intelligence or satellite photos of the decks to know that merchant ships simply don’t act this way.”
The source added, “If you’re moving goods, you don’t anchor in the same place for weeks at a time, let alone outside a war zone, let alone a war zone where militias are firing missiles at other ships,” and affirmed, “President Trump will put a stop to that.”
US officials familiar with the ship’s movements claim, “It is certain that the Iranian ship provides logistical support for the Houthis in Yemen.”
The US backs the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to end the crisis and urge all parties to cooperate with him to reach a comprehensive political agreement, said a high-ranking official at the US Department of State.
According to retired Naval intelligence officer, J.E. Dyer, “The maritime problem in a chokepoint is short-legged but very multifaceted. It’s time to get the sanctions game face back on, and pay Saviz or her sister ships a visit with a US cruiser or destroyer.”
In her analysis Dyer also noted, “Saviz appears to have remained there for extended periods in the months since. This is not the typical profile of a large, modern, ocean-going cargo ship, which would be expensively ill-employed lingering among islands in the southern Red Sea.”