Iranian warships have reportedly sailed through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea as speculation continues to grow that a conflict between Iran and Israel could be on the horizon. The passage, only the second by Iranian forces through the canal since the Islamic republic's 1979 revolution, was first reported by Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency Saturday. BBC News reports on the advance:
"The destroyer Shahid Qandi and its supply vessel Kharg have passed through the Suez Canal but their destination remains unclear. Navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayari told the Irna agency the mission was a show of might and a 'message of peace.'
Two Iranian navy vessels entered the Mediterranean in February last year. Israel called it a 'provocation.'
Admiral Sayari was quoted by Irna as saying: 'The strategic navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed through the Suez Canal for the second time since the Islamic Revolution.'
The mission conveyed 'the might' of Iran to regional countries and Tehran's 'message of peace and friendship.'"
A source told Reuters that the two Iranian naval ships received permission to cross through the canal by Egyptian armed forces and "could be on their way to the Syrian coast." Reuters notes that Iran and Syria agreed to cooperate on naval training a year ago, and Tehran has no naval agreement with any other country in the region. Both Iran and Syria are hostile to Israel.
The news comes as tensions between Iran and Israel appear to be reaching a breaking point, with many speculating that Israel may strike Iran to stop its suspected nuclear weapons program. CNN reports that Israel has also blamed Tehran for attacks on Israeli targets in India, Georgia and Thailand.
CNN notes that the United States and the European Union bolstered sanctions against Iran after a November report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that said Iran could be developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is strictly for civilian energy purposes.
Western nations had welcomed a letter from Iran Friday offering to resume stalled nuclear talks, however, the Obama administration still suspects that sanctions will not deter Tehran from continuing its nuclear program as military action appears eminent. The Guardian reports that "there is a strong current of opinion within the administration – including in the Pentagon and the state department – that believes sanctions are doomed to fail, and that their principal use now is in delaying Israeli military action, as well as reassuring Europe that an attack will only come after other means have been tested."
The Egyptian government allowed Iranian ships to first pass through the canal in February 2011, just days after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.