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

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US prevents Iranian arms smuggling 0

Is Commander-in-Chief Obama aware that the US navy is intercepting arms shipments from Iran to Hamas? If he is, does it mean that he recognizes Hamas as Iran’s proxy,  wants to thwart the Iranians, and prevent the re-arming of Gaza? If not, will he stop the navy doing this useful task when it comes to his attention? 

US Coast Guard boarding team

US Coast Guard boarding team

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that a US Navy Coast Guard team this week boarded an Iranian arms ship flying a Cypriot flag in the Red Sea and found weapons in its hold.

This was the first time an America warship had ever intercepted an Iranian vessel in international water. The incident activated the Memo of Understanding the former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice signed with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni a week ago on actions to halt the flow of Iranian arms to Hamas as part of the Gaza ceasefire.

The Iranian ship’s captain showed the US boarding team documents recording the Syrian port of Latakia as its cargo’s destination. DEBKAfile reports that both US and Israeli intelligence are certain the arms were bound for Hamas. But according to international law, the US Navy’s Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, set up last week to combat piracy, was not authorized to confiscate the cargo or stop the ship because no enforcement mechanism was yet in place.

After a few hours, therefore, the US force released the Iranian vessel and two warships escorted it out of Red Sea waters. The ship and its escort are due to enter the Suez Canal heading north Saturday night, Jan. 23, after being prevented from unloading its arms freight on the coast of Sinai or Gaza.

Tehran has so far not reacted to the incident.

DEBKAfile revealed last week that the new US task force policing the waters of the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea, under the command of Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, had been additionally assigned with intercepting Iranian ships smuggling arms for Hamas, often in conjunction with Somali pirates and Sinai Bedouin militias.

Massed on the lead ship San Antonio is a helicopter detachment, a "surgical team" for dealing with small speedboats trying to hem the ship in and 14 Navy VBSS members, including two Navy boarding officers. The Coast Guard detachment is made up of eight members, all of them qualified as boarding officers.

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

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