30 Jan

Two Iranian owned ships with weapons blocked while US floods Middle East with peace envoys

                                       

In the space of just a few days, both Egypt and Cyprus have stopped two Iranian ships from arriving at their Syrian and Gaza Strip destinations…. and both loaded with weapons bound for Hamas and/or Hezbollah.

- Cypriot authorities have stopped an Iranian ship loaded with weapons and traveling towards Syria. A diplomatic source for the European Union says that Cyprus acted on instructions from the United States and Israel.


USS San Antonio (LPD 17) underway – photo by Alec Rawls
Check out one beauty of a photo of her transiting the Suez Canal here!

The incident took place yesterday. The ship, which was Iranian but flying the Cypriot flag, was ordered to dock at Limassol for inspection. On board, Cypriot authorities found a load of weapons, including heavy artillery, rockets, and documents. According to Jerusalem, the weapons were being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon or to Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.

The ship was originally intercepted over a week earlier, searched and the weapons cargo discovered by the USS San Antonio – an amphibious transport dock ship assigned to track Iranian weapon shipments to the Gaza strip a few days earlier. However, according to Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US could not, under UN regs, legally hold the Iranian ship, flying Cypriot colors. How frustrating…

“The United States did as much as we could do legally,” Mullen told a briefing on Jan. 27.

“There are authorities, limitations in complying with this particular UN resolution, and we basically went right up to the edge of that and we couldn’t do anything else. And we think those weapons are headed to Syria, which is obviously not a great outcome …shipping weapons to Syria that we think, quite frankly, are going to end up in Gaza.”

Clyde at the Patriot Room has an interesting sequence of events apparently related to this same ship, starting Jan 26th… going thru it’s multiple mid-sea name changes. Worthy of a read. But stashed in the middle was a cargo description.

“The cargo consists of 50 Fajr rockets whose range is 50-75 km, scores of heavy Grad rockets, new, improved launchers whose angle of fire can be precisely adjusted, tons of high-quality explosives, submachine guns, rifles and pistols and armor-piercing missiles and shells (of types used successfully by Hizballah against Israeli tanks in 2006).

“The shipment, the largest Tehran has ever consigned to the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, includes also a large number of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, equipment for assembling roadside bombs and advanced communications and night vision gear.”

Meanwhile, Obama has dispatched a US Congressional delegation to Damascus… all who evidently arrived, beating the thwarted weapons shipment. My, would that be embarrassing to have all those Congress types chatting up Assad while Iranian weapons were being unloaded at the Syrian docks?

Syria’s relations with the U.S. struggled under President Bush, who frequently accused Damascus of allowing people and weapons across their border into Iraq to fight American troops.

[Mata Musing: doesn't look like Dubya was too far off the mark, eh?]

However, since the American change of power, Assad has shown cautious optimism, telling Al-Manar television (operated by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group) that a “serious” joint dialogue has already been initiated.

“We have positive indications, but we learned to be careful. As long as there are no tangible results, we have to assume that things have not changed,” he said.

In light of the blocked shipment, it becomes even more interesting that Syria proposes that Hamas *should* be engaged (diplomatically), but that it will require Syria’s aid in doing so.

Uh… considering they were expecting literally a boat load of ammo, just what kind of “aid” does Syria have in mind??

~~~

On other fronts, Egyptian authorities blocked yet another Iranian ship transporting weapons to Hamas at the Suez Canal entrance on Jan 28th. It was headed for the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit criticized Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah of working to fostering the clashes in Gaza in order to provoke conflict all over the Middle East. According to the minister, the situation of tension in the area is to the advantage of Iran, “which is trying to use its cards to escape Western pressure . . . on the nuclear file.”

From The Australian News account of the same event,

“This is a big test for the Egyptians,” a senior Israeli defence official told The Jerusalem Post. “So far the Egyptians have prevented the ship from crossing the Suez and we hope it will stay that way.”

Israeli defence officials told the paper Iran was trying to supply Hamas with new Grad-model Katyusha rockets and to replace high-grade explosives that were exhausted or destroyed by the Israeli Defence Force during this month’s war in Gaza.

The IDF is concerned Iran will supply Hamas with long-range Fajr missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

~~~

The French have also dispatched a frigate to the Mediterranean to participate in the clampdown on the Gaza Strip and to prevent weapons shipments from reaching Hamas, the Post said.

Israeli defence officials told the paper that since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, large quantities of explosives, machine guns and other weaponry had arrived in the Sinai peninsula, but the Egyptians were taking measures to prevent them from being smuggled into Gaza.

With all his fab Congressional types hanging out in Syria, Obama’s sent his new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, off on an eight day walkabout of the Middle East, starting in Cairo.

Appearing before the cameras in the Cabinet Room at the White House, Obama acknowledged that his envoy has “a very tough job.”

Still, he said, Mitchell will “engage vigorously and consistently in order for us to achieve genuine progress. And when I say progress, not just photo ops, but progress that is concretely felt by people on the ground.”

“Understand that Senator Mitchell is going to be fully empowered by me and fully empowered by Secretary Clinton. So when he speaks, he will be speaking for us,” the president added.

State Department officials said Mitchell’s mission has three goals.

He will listen to regional leaders’ views on an eventual Israeli-Palestinian settlement. But negotiations begun by former President George W. Bush are in limbo until Israeli elections two weeks from now, and polls show former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes compromise, as the front-runner.

More immediately, Mitchell will try to stabilize an unofficial cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip following a month of fighting that left hundreds of Palestinians dead and billions of dollars in damage.

~~~

Mitchell will not meet representatives of Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist group, nor, at least on this trip, will he travel to Syria, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

It’s going to be difficult to stabilize a Hamas-Israel ceasefire when one of the parties is an unrepentent terrorist group (that would be Hamas, for you visiting anti-Israel types…). Mitchell’s trip itinerary consists of Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and possibly Turkey… but no plans to visit Gaza.

In the meantime, the Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president now serving as the head of two important religious councils, issued warnings to Obama:

We are still waiting for the new U.S. administration to declare its wise stand, since otherwise they would waste another few years of our time by repeating Bush’s words regarding the need for Iran to halt its nuclear program, threatening us, or offering impractical, unclear promises,” said Rafsanjani, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

He said that if Obama improves relations with the Islamic Republic, the U.S. could count on “Iran’s cooperation” in resolving “regional problems.”

Rafsanjani spoke two days after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would be open to talks with America provided the U.S. changes its Middle East policies.

Sounds like business as usual to me… somehow, I’m not “feeling the love” now that the US has a new President. But hey… don’t you feel better? We have Congress members in Syria, and Mitchell *almost* everywhere else.

The usual suspects are up to their old tricks… speaking out their proverbial rear ends about a new era of negotiations – *if* the US caves in to the same old demands.

Meanwhile, Iran postures, and the back to back boatloads of weapons from Iran still attempt to make their way to Damascus and Gaza Strip….

Hopefully all those “talking diplomats” will lift up their heads from over their tea conferences every once in awhile to check what’s going on under their noses out at the docks, eh?

About MataHarley

Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.
This entry was posted in Hearts & Minds, Israel/Palestine, War On Terror. Bookmark the permalink. Friday, January 30th, 2009 at 8:01 pm
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10 Responses to Two Iranian owned ships with weapons blocked while US floods Middle East with peace envoys

  1. One of my life’s pleasures is traveling north and south on Pacific Coast Hwy between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach. I go right by the loading dock of the Naval Weapons Station for the Pacific Fleet. Clear, close up views of the warships docked there, broadside to the highway and only about 150 meters away. I’ve gotten good close up views of this new class of “stealth” sea cruisers. Beautiful ships.

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

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  2. Uh, Mata. You are saying that those weapons shipments weren’t planned until after Obama was elected? Either you are saying that or else you are saying that 8 years of tough acting, non-diplomacy failed to change the behavior of either the Iranians or Syrians. It’s obvious that the Iranians have become increasingly emboldened, since the start of the Iraq War.

    Who was it who said, “let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

    What’s to lose? How could it get worse?

    Answer to question above: John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Inaugural address, January, 1961.

    Why does this blog have such fear to negotiate? Can you explain? I’d really like to understand.

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

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  3. Larry,

    I think that the openid.aol thing is what is pitching you into the SPAM filter.

    I originally thought that it was the openid.aol thing working in combination with a link being contained in your response but the last two times I have dug you out, there were no hyper links in it.

    Try signing in under your user name and see what happens.

    Unless you don’t mind being continually sequestered. The only problem with that approach is that the filter gets overloaded and good posts sometimes get tossed with the trash.

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  4. Thanks, Aye. When I was posting under Larry Weisenthal, I was forever getting hung up in the spam filter. I followed the suggestion to use openid, and this did not solve the problem. I’ll just go back to posting under Larry Weisenthal.

    – Larry W

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  5. MataHarley says: 5

    Larry #1:

    I was a Navy wife with some part of the family duties stationed in San Diego. Didn’t get to the weapons station you mention, but I too have a fascination with these ships. I still find myself often visiting commission and launching sites to check out the latest/greatest in US Naval designs.

    INRE your #2 comment. I’m quite confused to your directional tack here. Let’s dissect…

    Uh, Mata. You are saying that those weapons shipments weren’t planned until after Obama was elected? Either you are saying that or else you are saying that 8 years of tough acting, non-diplomacy failed to change the behavior of either the Iranians or Syrians. It’s obvious that the Iranians have become increasingly emboldened, since the start of the Iraq War.

    No Larry… now where did I tie the Iranian arms shipments to Obama and his assumption of command? Must be in your imagination, thinking I’m on a 24/7 bash Obama binge. Granted, I am not a fan of Obama’s policies. However I concern myself more with the speedbumps that face us, and how he plans to surmount those speedbumps. It is what it is… he is our POTUS. Now it’s time to educate everyone on the details of each issue. Hopefully before he implements dangerous policies.

    Fact is, even the global jihad movement – of which Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are a part with their shared ideology of anti-Israel, anti-infidel and Muslim governance and control – doesn’t revolve 24/7 around the US POTUS. Matters not to them whether it was Bush 41, Bush 43, Clinton or Obama. It will continue *not* to matter when POTUS 45 rolls around as well.

    Those shipments and their timing instead had everything to do with the lull in Israeli-Hamas combat. Or perhaps, more succinctly described and illustrated by one of my fave cartoons appearing in Word’s Sunday funnies:

    That clears up your misconception #1.

    Misconception #2… that the perpetual quest for Muslim dominance in the Middle East and ancient Caliphate is a failure of Bush’s “tough-acting, non-diplomacy”. Their quest, their hate and their intolerance for anything but Shariah law and Islam predates George Bush by… say… decades and centuries at least. This is an absurd and tunnel-visioned statement at best when framed only in the past decade.

    But if you are trying to make a point that Bush’s aggression on the global Islamic jihad movements is less effective than “diplomacy”, and that Iran’s “emboldened” aggression only started with GWB, they you have decidedly ignored 20th Century history and Iran’s serious aggression three decades ago.

    Do I consider them more “bold” now? Not necessarily. Iran has always looked for windows of opportunity to advance their power in the region. Right now they are seriously weakened by economic sanctions placed on them by the one you give no credit to… Bush. They have also been hit by declining oil prices and an int’l community eyeing them warily. Quite frankly, Iran has more pressure on it from the US and the world now than they ever did prior to Bush.

    I also have great faith in the very pro western youth in Iran, who is very much at odds with the leadership of that country… both politically and religious clerics. Iran, unlike Iraq, I believe to be ripe for change from within by the increasing majority there.

    But INRE changing the hearts and minds of the Syrian, Hezbolla, Hamas or Iranian leaders… no amount of diplomacy and talk will work. There is no carrot/stick that will make them accept the presence of Israel, nor an increasing amount of Muslim democracies in the area.

    So do I think Obama’s “diplomacy” will succeed in changing an embedded attitude of hate for generations? Nope. What I do wonder is how long it will take Obama to figure this out. Or will he throw a democratic ally (Israel) to the wolves in order to achieve what he thinks is a good legacy for himself in history.

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  6. MataHarley says: 6

    Now… this comment I just had to address separately from above, Larry.

    Why does this blog have such fear to negotiate? Can you explain? I’d really like to understand.

    My problem with this statement is the quintessential habit of liberal/progressive/Obama supporters to classify people in groups… whether racial, financial, political or cultural.

    “This blog”, as you call it, is actually made up of a diverse group of people with many opinions and views on life and politics. You are one. I am one. And, as you commented on extensive back and forth between blast and myself on the Fidel-Chavez-Obama-Cuban thread, blast is yet another.

    For each of the three of us, there are countless versions of humans and opinions inbetween who not only post here, but also “lurk”. And I wish many of them would come out more, and I’ll try not to scare them away, as I may have done with “youngblood”…. LOL

    That being said, to judge “this blog” as a single entity that has “a fear to negotiate” is a serious discredit to what goes on here the majority of the time. You will notice that most of us have absolutely no fear of debating each other, nor of “negotiating” as part of diplomatic efforts for our national security.

    But we also know where to draw the line, depending on the other party across the table. There are those with which you *can* negotiate (i.e. Fatah, tho corrupt; Pakistan govt (also corrupt), but not their tribal region outlaws; new govts like Iraq and Afghanistan which only exist courtesy of our military, our coalition allies and GWD; and the Lebanese govt).

    Then there are those with which negotiations are nothing but a military ruse when they are losing (i.e. AQ in Tora Bora, in order to facilitate OBL’s escape, AQ affiliates in general; Sadr and the Mahdi, Hamas, Hezbollah, etal)

    The majority of us are students of history of warfare… especially this group of authors. The majority of us have been watching the global jihad movement long before we combined to join Curt on Flopping Aces.

    We have observed failed deal after failed deal of “negotiations” by Muslims with their jihad groups … jihad meaning those groups that strive for Muslim nations to be controlled by Shariah law and Islam.

    There’s different degrees of jihad. Some wage their war via legislative methods, as some in Pakistan. Some without elected offices solely use violence. And then there are those that utilize both (Hamas being a good example.)

    The small and but destructive percentage that wage jihad via violence are whom we concentrate the most for national security. They – like Zawahiri, Bin Laden, etal – believe elections and democracy to be “unIslamic” and do not accept this as an option.

    Hamas achieved their political/legislative goals in the 2006 election by winning on their welfare platform… a Sharia law nanny state. But then they incorporated their violent methods when they seized Gaza by coup, warring against the Fatah party, dissolving a unity party. These degrees and historic behavior are important to know, and understand who sits across from you in negotiations.

    Within that “violence” category… tho they may be Shia as opposed to Sunni (too simplistic an argument for reality), falls Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. They are, in fact, inseparable from the Sunni-Sufi-Wahabbi jihad groups in quest, ideology and effect. They will combine forces to accomplish an attack against a shared enemy… then when successful, will stop to battle amongst themselves for local power. This is their history. This is their future… at least until they stop perpetuating the hate.

    They never negotiate but to “reload” and regroup their efforts. Negotiations to jihad is a sign of weakness. This has been proven time and time again in Pakistan in the 90s under Bhutto, Afghanistan in Tora Bora, and Iraq… and that’s just in recent history. It’s as simple as this…

    You cannot negotiate hate out of the heart. Period

    They do not compromise either. To compromise one’s principles is the same as defeat. But they will play the game in order to “reload”, so to speak. To buy time, and put the enemy into a comfort zone that will weaken them.

    Perhaps, as a westerner who concerns his life the efforts to eliminate cancer, you really don’t have the time nor inclination to study the psychology of our enemy. That is not a criticism. In fact, the opposite. What you do earns my utmost admiration and respect. But I do feel your genuine education suffers because you do not have the time to devote to more serious historical study, and must depend upon a very irresponsible media who pretends to be in command of the facts.

    So… to summarize… what you consider by ‘this blog” as a “fear to negotiate” is actually an attempt to identify a fruitless effort that has failed in historic past, and will continue to fail in the future. It is also an attempt to pass on that history to those, like you, who think negotiations are “something new” and “change”. And it is because you only examine history a nanosecond in the past.

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  7. Thanks, Mata, for taking all the time to respond so thoughtfully. I have nothing further to add.

    – Larry W/HB

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  8. I see Larry ran screaming from the room on the latest global warming post after putting up 2488 words and complaining he can’t keep up with me…

    I’m disappointed Larry! I thought you had the goods!

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  9. Clyde says: 9

    thanks for the mention and bump, mata.

    seems now that cyprus is afraid to release the ship without a search that will satisfy the israelis – israel is waiting to take the ship itself if it is released.

    should be interesting to see how this plays out.

    you see that iranian aid ship refuses port has been converted into a command and control center for hamas leaders? seems iran wants to ensure that hamas gets it right if a 2d set of hostilities opens. israel took out most of the advanced rockets in the first 4 minutes of cast lead, and with the glorified rocks hamas had left they couldn’t hit the RADAR installation we put in southern israel.

    this is an active war zone. mitchell is out of his league. he was good for the dry-heave of The Troubles – not here.

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  10. Missy says: 10

    “He said that if Obama improves relations with the Islamic Republic, the U.S. could count on “Iran’s cooperation” in resolving “regional problems.”

    In other words, be nice, leave us and our nuke program alone and we will stop meddling in the affairs of all around us. Reverse carrort/stick psycology.

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