Ships That Pass in the Night
Egyptian state media, according to CNN, “reported that the post-Hosni Mubarak ‘caretaker’ government gave the green light to the Iranian warships Friday. They are expected to be the first Iranian warships to sail through the Canal since the Islamic republic’s 1979 revolution.”
Egypt has sovereignty over the 103-mile long Suez, since it is (now) an internal body of water. Egypt is bound by the 1978 Camp David Accords (for the signing of which Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated three years later). The Camp David Accords guarantee the right of free passage by ships belonging to Israel and all other nations on the basis of the Constantinople Convention of 1888.
Prior to the Accords, Egypt did not allow Israeli ships to sail through the canal, which they nationalized in 1956. Last week, Egypt's newly empowered military government said it would honor all its international treaties. That would include Camp David. In October of 1956, after Egyptian guerrillas raided Israel’s borders, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt rejected cease-fire demands from Britain and France. Both countries accepted a U.N. ceasefire agreement in early November. A U.N, Emergency Force guarded the border.
But full-scale war broke out again and by June 1957, Israel had captured Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula and taken control of the East Bank of the Suez Canal. In 1973, Egyptian forces crossed the Suez into the Sinai at the same time Syria attacked Israel’s northern border. The USSR assisted Egypt while the U.S. responded with an airlift to Israel. Israel successfully captured the West Bank, but under a U.N. treaty in 1974, they withdraw and a limited number of Egyptian forces were permitted to occupy a strip on the left bank. In a second accord, Israel yielded the Sinai oil fields.
After Anwar Sadat’s assassination by Muslim extremists within the Egyptian army (Sadat had paid a surprise visit to Jerusalem in November 1977), Israel surrendered control of the Sinai to Egypt. The 1990s saw a growing tide of Islamic extremism, including numerous assassination attempts upon Hosni Mubarak, the downing of an EgyptAir jetliner en route from New York to Cairo just off Nantucket by its suicide-bent Islamic captain killing 217, the murder by extremists of 58 foreign tourists and 4 Egyptians at a tourist site near Luxor, Egypt, and the crashing of an Egyptian charter plan into the Red Sea, killing 133 French tourists and 15 others.
In 2004, Muslim terrorists set off a bomb near Taba, a Sinai tourist spot frequented by Israelis killing 35, another at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea in July 2005, killing 88, and another suicide bombing in April 2004 in the Sinair resort ccity of Dahab, killing 18 and wounding 88.
Hosni Mubarak was pressured by the U.S. in 2005 to allow opostion candidates in the upcoming presidential election. He won 88 percent of the vote, with only a 23 percent turnout. That same year, constitutional amendments were enacted expanding presidential powers and barring religiously-based opposition parties from running candidates for election. Opposition groups and human rights activists denounced this amendment as fraudulent.
The Iranians asked for a frigate (the second largest ship in a navy after a ship of the line) -- the Alvand -- and a military supply ship -- the Kharg -- to cross into the Mediterranean. Both are armed with missiles, David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told CNN, adding that their passage would create more uncertainty in the region.
"This is typical of Syrian-Iranian opportunism,” he noted.
Egypt's decision, analysts said, could show the direction that the military caretakers intend to take the Arab world's most populous nation. According to CNN, “Iran said earlier that the flotilla was on a yearlong intelligence-gathering and training mission to prepare cadets to defend Iran's cargo ships and oil tankers from the threat of attack by Somali pirates, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.”
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday, "My initial response to that would be we're highly skeptical of that. It's not really about the ships. It's what the ships are carrying, what's their destination, what's the cargo on board, where is it going, to whom, for what benefit.”
“Those concerns were shared by the White House, where Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, ‘We're monitoring that, obviously, but we also would say that Iran does not have a great track record for responsible behavior in the region, which is always a concern for us.’"
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel's allies should pay close attention to the situation. The Israeli Defense Ministry said it was monitoring the movement of the Iranian ships and alerted its allies.
CNN noted that “The Suez Canal is a key waterway for international trade. It connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, allowing ships to navigate between Europe and Asia without having to go around Africa. Millions of barrels of oil move through the Suez every day en route to Europe and North America.”
Do tell. Israel says that it has alerted its allies. The question is, what allies? We were told we could depend upon the Egyptian military to not break the Camp David Accord, but they just let an Iranian warship and her convoy ship through the Suez Canal where the ship will dock in Syria “for a year” according to the Iranians, in order to protect their oil tankers. Yet the Iranians are notorious for attacking foreign oil tankers from the Strait of Hormuz. Who’s kidding whom, here? Our government, headed by Obama the admitted Socialist and suspected Islamicist, has silently aided and abetted the movement, urging the Egyptian protesters, none of whose alliances we know for certain being just a faceless mob of people, to a violent demand for the overthrow of Mubarak in the name of “democracy.” Where has any administration’s – and just Obama’s – denunciation of attacks on foreign oil tankers – been these many decades that they’ve been happening?
Certainly, the Media has not reported these frequent attacks. I only know of them because I worked for a major oil company, as a clerk in its international trade department. I heard first-hand from the tanker captains what was happening, and that was back in the 1980s. At the time, that company simply accepted the attacks as a cost of doing business in an unstable region. Ex-patriate employees were given training in avoiding and/or surviving terrorist kidnappings and attacks.
Yet when the tanker the Valdez ran aground in Alaska, we heard all about it from the Mainstream Media.
Since the Egyptian protests, international companies have been frantically evacuating their ex-pat employees from the region. Tourists are shunning Egypt like the plague, if you’ll excuse the pun-ish expression. The Egyptian economy is suffering for it, but depend upon it: the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t care. The fact is, they don’t want foreign tourists coming to Egypt at all.
The West and the Muslim East are like ships that pass in the night, to use yet another cliché. The East, however, not only doesn’t want the Western shipping passing it, but will fire upon her, stealing her cargo and beheading her passengers, before finally sinking her. The commandeering of the Suez Canal is but the first shot over the West’s bow.