Russia and Iran are 'working together' as Red Sea attacks distract from war in Ukraine, Defence Secretary warns

5 February 2024, 17:44

Russia and Iran are working together as attacks on the Red Sea are distracting from the war in Ukraine, the Defence Secretary has warned
Russia and Iran are working together as attacks on the Red Sea are distracting from the war in Ukraine, the Defence Secretary has warned. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Russia and Iran are working together as attacks on the Red Sea are distracting from the war in Ukraine, the Defence Secretary has warned.

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Grant Shapps vowed the UK "will not hesitate to respond" again against the Houthis "in self-defence", after carrying out joint strikes with the United States.

Shapps said the use of force by the UK and US over the weekend was in "strict accordance with international law and in self-defence", as he updated MPs on the joint airstrikes against Houthi rebel sites in Yemen on Saturday.

He said "precision strikes" were against "Houthi locations in Yemen" - and there were thought to be no civilian casualties.

He said the strikes were against "three military facilities", hitting "11 separate targets which were identified after a very careful analysis at those three locations".

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps remarks during a bilateral meeting hosted by U.S Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, at the Pentagon, January 31
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps remarks during a bilateral meeting hosted by U.S Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, at the Pentagon, January 31. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Blinken returns to Middle East in push for hostage deal and postwar Gaza plan

Read More: US and Britain in new wave of attacks against Yemen’s Houthis

Asking a question in the Commons this evening, Conservative MP Sir Julian Lewis asked Shapps: "Does he feel that there is in fact a link to a separate conflict and that is the conflict in Ukraine?

"Isn't it more than a coincidence that the proxies of Russia's ally in the Middle East have been so much more active whilst Russia is so desperate we turn our attention away from supporting Ukraine?"

In response, Shapps replied: "My right honourable friend has absolutely hit the nail on the head.

"Russia and Iran working together, actually the same kind of drones being fired. Sometimes the Shahed drones being fired in Ukraine by the Russians courtesy of Iran, are also being fired by the Houthis.

"He makes an excellent linkage point and is absolutely right."

This image provided by the U.S. Navy shows an aircraft launching from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during flight operations in the Red Sea
This image provided by the U.S. Navy shows an aircraft launching from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during flight operations in the Red Sea. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Sunak vows he will 'not hesitate to protect British lives' after US-UK strikes continue in the Red Sea

Read More: UK manufacturing continues to decline as Red Sea disruption hits supply chains

Continuing his statement on the situation in the Red Sea, Shapps said attacks on commercial ships and the targeting of HMS Diamond in the Red Sea "is simply intolerable".

"It's already having consequences which are damaging to the economies of the world," he said, describing impacts on cargo ships and associated costs. "All of which could send food inflation spiralling and will certainly hit those countries with the greatest poverty levels the hardest."

He added: "The Houthis believe they are the region's Robin Hood. But as I discussed with the Yemeni defence minister just yesterday when I saw him in Saudi, the only people they are robbing are innocent Yemenis, whose food and aid arrives via the Red Sea."

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