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1:32 pm Eastern Time, January 6, 2024

Iran faces ‘all-out battle’ with ‘enemy’ as West vows to confront attacks by Houthi rebels, commander says

By CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Sugam Pokharel

Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami speaks during a funeral ceremony Jan. 5 in Kerman, Iran.

Vahid Salemi/AP

Iran faces an “all-out battle” with an “enemy” actor, a top Iranian commander said, as Western nations vow to confront the recent series of attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

“We need to defend our national interests wherever they extend […] It will be detrimental for the enemy to be close and at medium distance. They should stay away from this area,” Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Saturday at an inauguration ceremony for a new Navy ship in the coastal town of Bandar Abbas on the coast of Gulf, Reuters reported.

Salami did not name the enemy during the televised speech, according to Reuters.

On January 2, the Iranian Navy sent a military destroyer to the Red Sea as tensions rose in the waterway. Although Iran did not officially provide a reason for the deployment, the state-affiliated Tasnim news agency said the destroyer was sent as part of a series of vessels participating “in regular missions in international waters.”

This comes as UK-based maritime security group Ambrey Analytics said in an alert on Saturday that it received a report of “a maritime security event in the Bab al Mandab area” in the Red Sea.

“Crews are advised to minimize deck movements and that only essential crew should be on the bridge,” he said.

This is just one of several similar events that have taken place in the Red Sea in recent weeks. The Houthi rebels, considered one of Iran’s proxies, have launched several attacks on commercial and merchant ships in the Red Sea in what the group has called a campaign of revenge against Israel’s war in Gaza.

A coalition of 11 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, condemned the “unlawful” and “deeply destabilizing” attacks in a joint statement on Wednesday. The coalition outlined its serious intention to “hold evil actors accountable” for “illegal seizures and attacks.”

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer underlined the seriousness of the situation during an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, acknowledging that the attacks “may have an impact” on prices in the country.

Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt said the UK and its partners have made it “very clear to the Houthis” that the rebel group’s actions in the Red Sea will have “consequences”.

“We will not sit back and accept that because it is vital for global trade,” Hunt warned.

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