What lies behind a Washington blackout 3

More news of that intercepted Iranian arms-smuggling ship:


Iranian freighter for smuggling arms to Hamas

Iranian freighter for smuggling arms to Hamas

The Iranian ship boarded by a US Navy Coast Guard team on the Red Sea last week before it could smuggle arms to Hamas is now disclosed by DEBKAfile’s military sources to have tried to trick the search team by enclosing its rocket cargo in secret compartments behind layers of steel. Furthermore, our sources reveal, the US has not yet found a harbor in the region for carrying out a thorough search.

The Cypriot-flagged Iranian freighter Nochegorsk was intercepted last week by the new US Combined Task Force 151 in the Bab al-Mandeb Straits. Its presence in the Red Sea was first revealed by DEBKAfile on Jan. 20. For this article click HERE.

The Americans decided not to give the Israeli Navy a chance to seize the vessel and tow it to Eilat for fear of a Tehran ultimatum to Jerusalem, followed by Iranian attacks on Israeli naval craft patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

Iran maintains two warships in those waters to guard its shipping against Somali pirates as well as a military presence in the Eritrean port of Assab. The arms smuggling ship was first reported escorted out of the Suez Canal Saturday night, Jan. 23, after which Washington imposed a blackout on the incident. It is now moored at an Egyptian Red Sea port at the entrance to the Gulf of Suez.

But the US and Egyptian governments are in a fix. To break the Iranian ship’s holds open and expose the rockets destined for Hamas, the facilities of a sizeable port are needed. It would have to be Egyptian because the other coastal nations – Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia – are hostile or controlled by pirates. Both the US and Egypt are hesitant about precipitating a full-blown armed confrontation with Iran. The timing is wrong for the new Barack Obama administration, which is set on smoothing relations with Tehran through diplomatic engagement. Cairo has just launched a campaign to limit Tehran’s aggressive drive in the Middle East but does not want a premature clash. [What can this mean? Is a clash intended? If so, when? – JB]

DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources disclose that the ship’s captain had orders not to resist an American boarding team but impede a close look at its freight. The Navy Coast Guard searchers first found a large amount of ordnance and explosives in the ship’s hold, which the Iranian captain claimed were necessary for securing Iranian freighters heading from the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. But then, the US searchers using metal detectors perceived welded steel compartments packed with more hardware concealed at the bottom of the hull.

The option of towing it to a Persian Gulf port for an intensive search was rejected because the Gulf emirates hosting US bases were almost certain to shy away from involvement in the affair. Moreover, Tehran would be close enough to mount a naval commando operation to scuttle the ship before it was searched.

Our military sources estimate that eventually the US government may decide to let the Iranian arms ship sail through the Suez Canal out to the Mediterranean for lack of other options.



Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tagged with , , , , , ,

This post has 3 comments.

  • roger in florida

    Not really: If war is outside of legality why do we have war crimes and war criminals? Why do we have Geneva Conventions and rules of engagement? I agree there is no court established to try these cases except perhaps the fledgling ICC in the Hague, but clearly there are rules laid down for the conduct of war. Wars can be legal; every nation has the right of self defence, which is why all of Israel’s wars were legal for Israel but illegal for the Arab attackers.

    As for the arms, as I said, from Iran’s POV this will look like piracy and may well provoke a response, which is why the cargo will most likely be allowed to proceed.

    As for Egypt, perhaps you are right, however I would quote to Egypt Trotsky’s words “You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you”. There is going to be a struggle for Islamic supremacy in the Middle East and Egypt will be a player. Consider that, on current trends, the master of Islam in the ME in 50 years will also be the master of Europe. That is a prize indeed for ambitous men.

  • Sam

    To reply to 1 and 3 at the same time, I would suggest that the sanctions against Iran would answer those. While I am not certain that the sanctions include the import of arms from Iran, it is clearly something the US is very keen to stop. And to speak of the ‘legality’ is sketchy, as there is no legal system that has jurisdiction over two sovereign countries’ Navies. In fact, I always believe to it to be rather ridiculous to describe war as illegal – war is the breakdown of legality. A war can fail to have an immoral or false pretext, but it cannot be defined as illegal, merely condemned by the highly subjective international organisations such as the UN.

    2 – This report has been published by several major news agencies. And Qassam rockets, while extremely deadly, can be carried by hand. 60 tons is 60 tons too much. And what is more, it has nothing to do with the number of dead, or the potency of weapons; Operation Cast Lead was designed to stop the threat of misery and death to the Israeli citizens from a territory plagued by evil ideals and hate.

    4 – Egypt is doing everything it can to move away from a religious division in the Arab World; such a confrontation would encourage public support for the Muslim Brotherhood – a group Egypt wishes to diminish and ultimately destroy.

    I hope that answers your questions.

  • roger in florida

    The blackout doesn’t surprise me. There are some aspects of this story that need some explaining:

    Firstly, why is it illegal for Iran to supply weapons to Hamas, or Fatah, when the US supplies vast quantities of weapons to Israel? I am not trying to draw any moral equivalence here but the situation looks a lot different from the Iranian side than it does from the US side.

    Secondly, Debka is a notoriously unreliable source. In their article they claim that the ship is carrying 60 tons of rockets, missiles, explosives, etc. but 60 tons is not actually very much. I would bet that Israel has expended at least hundreds of tons of munitions in its incursion into Gaza.

    Thirdly, the US may be on shaky legal and military ground here. This action probably looks to the Iranians like US piracy. The US does not want to upset Iran and certainly does not want any military confrontation with Iran.

    Fourthly, Egypt is certainly preparing for a confrontation with Iran, although not soon. The Egyptians are Sunni and the Iranians are Shia, both want to be the leaders of the Arab Islamic world. When the infidels (Israel and the US) have been kicked out of the Middle East look for a religous war between these two factions.