Iran Naval Ships Enter Suez Canal, Says Egyptian Official

Israel says it takes a 'grave view' of the ships' passage - the first Iranian naval vessels to go through the canal since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Two Iranian ships entered the Suez Canal on Tuesday and were heading towards the Mediterranean, an Egyptian canal official said.

Iran appears to be testing the state of affairs in the Middle East after the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"They entered the canal at 5:45 a.m.," the official told Reuters. No other details were immediately available.

Israel is anxious about political upheaval in Egypt and other Arab states aligned with its ally the United States.

View Suez Canal in a larger map

Polls in Egypt suggest most of the main political forces will be less compliant with Israel and its ally the United States, though no group has called for the abrogation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Israel had said it takes a "grave view" of the passage of the ships -- the first Iranian naval vessels to go through the canal since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Egypt's ruling military council, facing its first diplomatic headache since taking power on Feb. 11, has approved the vessels' passage through the canal, a vital global trading route and major source of revenues for the Egyptian authorities.

The vessels include a frigate and a supply ship.

The decision was a difficult one for Egypt's interim government. Cairo is an ally of the United States, has a peace treaty with Israel, and its relations with Iran have been strained for more than three decades.

Analysts say that Iran see itself benefiting from the upheaval across the Middle East. Dislodgement and weakening of leaders sympathetic to the United States is likely to embolden Tehran, and lessen the chances of it making concessions on its nuclear program. Iran denies it intends to build atomic weapons.

Last week, the prospect of the Suez crossing was described by Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, as a provocation by Iran.

Suez Canal - AP - Feb 17, 2011