Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel 'Gravely' Concerned as Two Iranian Naval Ships Approach Suez Canal

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel 'Gravely' Concerned as Two Iranian Naval Ships Approach Suez Canal

Article excerpt

Two Iranian naval ships are set to pass through the Suez Canal for the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. 'Israel views this Iranian step gravely,' said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Iran is projecting the long arm of its military by sending naval vessels to the Suez Canal in attempt to cross through to the Mediterranean for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In an action deemed ''grave'' by an Israel already uneasy over the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, two Iranian ships are set to traverse the canal Monday en route to Syria - an Iranian ally and Israeli enemy.

The step ratchets up tensions between the rival regional powers at a time of unprecedented turmoil in the area following revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and mass protests in Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya. And while Israeli security specialists disagree on the severity of threat the ships pose to Israel, they agree that the move is part of Iran's efforts to project its clout at a time when the regional balance of power appears to be shifting its way.

''We can see what an unstable region we live in when Iran tries to take advantage of the situation and increase its influence by sending two warships through the Suez Canal,'' said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

''Israel views this Iranian step gravely,'' he continued, adding that it underscored the need to increase the defense budget.

Israel considers Iran a formidable threat because of its nuclear program, its calls for Israel's demise, and its support for anti- Israeli militant groups such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Iranian step comes as Israel is jittery over the ouster in Egypt of its strategic partner Hosni Mubarak, a de facto ally against Iran who joined in Israel's blockade of Gaza in a bid to weaken its Hamas rulers. Some Israeli analysts are predicting the eventual emergence of a regime dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. …

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