Two Iranian warships have passed through the Suez Canal, the first from the country to do so since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iranian officials said the frigate and supply vessel were on their way to Syria for training. Egypt gave the mission the green light; Israel described it as a “provocation.”
Although it was planned before the uprisings in the Middle East, observers said the journey is symbolic.
“I think that the message should be very clear – Iran is here, the United States is getting weaker, states like Egypt are not any more kind of pro-western pillars in the Middle East,” said Professor Uzi Rabi, expert in Iranian-Israeli relations at Tel Aviv University. “Iran is trying to capitalise on that and send a message that the whole Middle East should be read differently in geo-political terms.”
The Israeli government has called for a firm reaction from the international community.
The episode is awkward for Cairo’s new interim government. Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel, but had no legal grounds to refuse the ships entry.