Iran responded to the US Navy’s destruction of three Houthi boats by deploying the Alborz destroyer to the Red Sea, escalating tensions and complicating US efforts to secure vital trade routes. The Iranian warship navigated the Bab El-Mandeb strait on Monday, a narrow passage connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as reported by Iranian state media. This move follows the US-led maritime task force’s actions against Houthi rebels in Yemen, who control strategic areas, including the capital Sanaa and the port of Al-Hudaydah.

Tensions rose after the US targeted Houthi members during an attack on a Danish-owned container ship. Subsequently, a Houthi delegation met with Iranian officials. The Houthis, aiming to counter Israeli actions in Gaza, had previously targeted vessels bound for or owned by Israeli entities, hijacking a container ship and launching drone and ballistic missile attacks.

In response, Operation Prosperity Guardian, involving the US and nine other nations, countered the attacks on December 19. US destroyers USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely thwarted Houthi attempts to board the Maersk Hangzhou, sinking three boats. Denmark joined the coalition, and the US accused Iran of deep involvement, a claim Tehran denied. Iran’s show of force coincided with a visit from Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam to Tehran, where Iran criticized perceived double standards by the US and Western governments. Analysts suggest Iran’s actions aim to project power, challenging US influence and asserting control over regional waterways.