Report: Iran operating spy ship in Bab-el-Mandab strait

Officially the "Saviz" is a merchant ship, but it is actually an Iranian intelligence base, according to an American report 

Photo courtesy of ImageSat

Officially the "Saviz" is a merchant ship, but it is apparently a covert forward base of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Over the past few years, open-source intelligence reports and Saudi sources have accused the IRGC of operating the ship. 

The naval role of such ships is hard to prove with open sources, but the conclusion is clear. There is no legitimate civilian explanation for the action, and uniformed men were seen on the vessel. On the ship's deck are Boston Whaler-type launchers, a type of boat that is common with the IRGC and is not in line with the Saviz's civilian design.  

The ship is anchored off the coast of Yemen at the Read Sea's southern edge, close to the point where the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait is a physical choking point. Automatic Information System transmissions and analysis of commercial satellite imagery reveal that for the last three years, the ship has hardly moved. It can provide continuous surveillance of the maritime traffic from its position.  

The narrow waterway south of the Saviz's location forces tankers to pass through a channel that is only several kilometers wide. There were many attacks on tankers in the area. The Saviz in its position plays a role in some of the attacks, feeding intelligence to Iran and its Houthi allies in Yemen, sources in Saudi Arabia said. 

The Houthis are fighting a civil war against forces supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Houthis acquired a range of sea mines, anti-ship missiles and remote- controlled explosive boats. Iran's hand in supplying knowledge, parts and entire systems to the Houthis has been documented.