Western Countries Demand Iran to Pressure the Houthis... Europe Prepares for Naval Mission

A ship sails in the Arabian Sea near Bab al-Mandab, off Aden, Yemen, in December. (EPA)
A ship sails in the Arabian Sea near Bab al-Mandab, off Aden, Yemen, in December. (EPA)
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Western Countries Demand Iran to Pressure the Houthis... Europe Prepares for Naval Mission

A ship sails in the Arabian Sea near Bab al-Mandab, off Aden, Yemen, in December. (EPA)
A ship sails in the Arabian Sea near Bab al-Mandab, off Aden, Yemen, in December. (EPA)

European countries are discussing the details of a naval mission to protect ships in the Red Sea from Houthi attacks, while diplomatic efforts continue to try to reduce the escalation and prevent the expansion of the conflict in the region.
The European Union is seeking to persuade Iran to use its “influence” with the Houthis to urge them to stop their attacks on ships in the Red Sea, which had prompted the United States and Britain to launch limited strikes on the group in Yemen.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron met with his Iranian counterpart, Amir Hussein Abdollahian, on the sidelines of the Davos meetings on Wednesday, according to a British Foreign Office statement.
Cameron called on Iran to “use its influence with the Houthis to prevent further threats” in the Red Sea, describing their attacks as “illegal and unacceptable.”
Wednesday witnessed another European-Iranian meeting, which brought together Enrique Mora, the European Union’s Deputy Commissioner for Foreign Policy and the EU representative in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, with Ali Bagheri Kani, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and Iran’s representative in the nuclear file. Informed diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting focused on persuading Iran to ask the Houthis to stop their attacks on ships. Although the sources described the meeting as “good,” they pointed to diverging Western and Iranian views.
The sources added that Bagheri Kani did not make any commitment to seek to influence the Houthis, but on the other hand, they indicated that Mora also refrained from exerting pressure by threatening additional sanctions on Iran if it did not contribute to reducing the escalation in the region.
While European diplomatic efforts continue with the aim to stop the escalation with Iran, EU countries are preparing to join the British-American naval mission to protect ships in the Red Sea. Two days ago, EU ambassadors approved an initial plan to form a naval mission to protect vessels from Houthi attacks. The EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the plan on Monday and give final approval to it.
European countries will work to determine the legal frameworks to expand this maritime mission, and define its work precisely. Discussions are underway to deploy at least three European frigates, which will escort ships in the Red Sea and deter any attacks.
The Netherlands announced its readiness to participate in the mission by sending a frigate. The Dutch Minister of Defense said on Thursday that discussions were ongoing on the matter, adding that it was necessary to obtain authorization in Parliament.
Germany is also planning to send a frigate to participate in the naval mission, but it also needs Parliament’s approval.
The head of the Defense Committee in the German Parliament, Marie-Agnes Strack Zimmermann, said that Germany’s participation in the naval mission aims to protect commercial ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, adding that the Houthi attack on ships “is an attack on freedom of trade, and must be confronted.”

 

 

 

 



Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
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Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo

Sweden's domestic security agency on Thursday accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.
The accusations were raised at a news conference by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency's counterespionage unit, following a series of events earlier this year.
In late January, the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in an eastern Stockholm neighborhood. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.
The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.
According to The Associated Press, Stenling said, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, that the agency "can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”
“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden," he said and added that the agency sees "connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police's National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference with Stenling.
“We see this connection between the Iranian intelligence services, the security services and precisely criminals in the criminal networks in Sweden," Stenling said. “We see that connection and it also means that we need to work much more internationally to get to the crimes and be able to prevent them.”
Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent incidents connected to the Israel Embassy and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.
Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.
By May 15, police have recorded 85 shootings so far this year, including 12 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.