Advertisement

Grant Shapps tells Iran to ‘cease and desist’ after strikes on Tehran-backed Houthis

Iran must urge its Houthi allies to “cease and desist”, Grant Shapps has said after Britain joined the US in launching airstrikes against the rebel group in Yemen.

The defence secretary warned on Friday that the world is “running out of patience” with Tehran’s destabilising activities, calling for it to be “clearer with its many proxies” in the Middle East.

Overnight on Thursday, the UK and the US bombed military facilities used by the Houthis in response to the militants’ attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said the world is ‘running out of patience’ with Iran (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said the world is ‘running out of patience’ with Iran (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

The Hamas-backing Houthis claim they are targeting vessels linked to Israel in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes over the war in Gaza.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak insisted Britain and the US acted “in self-defence” and that allies would not hesitate to ensure the safety of commercial shipping.

But some experts warned the strikes raised the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East, as a group gathered outside the UK embassy in Tehran to burn the flags of Britain, the US and Israel.

The Houthis’ Supreme Political Council threatened in a statement that “all American-British interests have become legitimate targets for the Yemeni armed forces”.

They called the airstrikes a “direct and declared aggression against the Republic of Yemen” and labelled the UK and the US “aggressors”.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations received a report of a missile attack 90 miles off the coast of Aden, Yemen, on Friday afternoon.

The Royal Navy initiative that provides information on security incidents to shipping operators said the missile landed between 400-500 metres away from the ship.

A RAF Voyager aircraft taking off from RAF Akrotiri to conduct strikes against military targets in Yemen (Ministry of Defence/PA)
A RAF Voyager aircraft taking off from RAF Akrotiri to conduct strikes against military targets in Yemen (Ministry of Defence/PA)

Followed by three craft, it was unclear what nationality the ship was flagged with. No injuries or damage were reported, as vessels were advised to “transit with caution”.

There were also reports of a “suspicious approach” by small boats south east of Aden.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Shapps said that Iran has an important part to play in de-escalating tensions.

Asked his message to Tehran, he said: “You must get the Houthi rebels, others who are acting as proxies for you, Lebanese Hezbollah are obvious examples, (and) some in Iraq and Syria, you must get these different organisations to cease and desist because we are, the world is, running out of patience.

“We see you, we see through what you’re doing. We see how you’re doing it, particularly the Houthi rebels, and no good can come from it.”

He argued that the UK was “acting in self-defence” because of the threat to container ships and because of HMS Diamond being targeted by a drone last month.

“Iran has an important part to play here and needs to understand that it needs to be clearer with its many proxies in the region that no good can come from this and everyone loses if they carry on going down this track,” he said.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was assessing what effect the strikes had on limiting the Houthis’ ability to carry out more raids.

Early on Saturday, the US struck another Houthi-controlled site in Yemen that they determined was putting commercial vessels in the Red Sea at risk.

US Central Command said the “follow-on action” against a Houthi radar site was conducted by the Navy destroyer USS Carney using Tomahawk land attack missiles.

Foreign secretary Lord David Cameron warned that allies would do “what is necessary” to “protect maritime freedom of navigation and important maritime pathways”.

He told NBC that the “very clear message” was that “if you act in this way there aren’t just warnings there are consequences”.

Mr Sunak will make a statement to MPs on Monday about the strikes amid calls for greater consultation in Parliament.

Downing Street said that the strikes against the Houthis may not immediately make the Red Sea safer for commercial shipping, but in the “longer term” would have a “positive effect”.

A senior US military official said nearly 30 sites were struck in Yemen.

Four Royal Air Force jets struck two Houthi facilities involved in their targeting of HMS Diamond and US Navy vessels on Tuesday, the MoD said.