As American officials circulated photographs of Iranian boats traversing the Arabian Gulf bearing missiles, there was a growing consensus on Friday that Tehran had been caught red-handed.
Experts are divided on whether the images show already reported activity or a new clear and present danger to free passage in the straits.
“Reports that Iran was loading missiles on boats are certainly credible. After all, it is not the first time. There is good evidence that Iran has previously supplied missiles to Houthi rebels by sea,” said Mark Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
That Iran has “plenty” of coastal combat boats was not in doubt, added Erwin van Veen from the Clingendael Institute – but the question, he said, was if the pictures represented a step change in the threat level.
Peter Waring, an analyst at consultancy Ridgeway Information, said Iran has a formidable maritime and littoral capability in the Arabian Gulf and a track record of targeting vessels at times of tension.
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