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Monday, September 17, 2007

The North Korean - Syrian connection tightens

On Saturday night, I reported that the trigger for Israel's alleged raid on a Syrian WMD facility was the arrival at a Syrian port of a ship from North Korea carrying a cargo labeled 'cement' on September 3. In an article in London's Telegraph, more details have emerged about the ship.
A suspicious North Korean freighter that re-flagged itself as South Korean before off-loading an unknown cargo at the Syrian port of Tartous is at the centre of efforts today to investigate Israel's recent airstrike on Syria.

An Israeli on-line data analyst, Ronen Solomon, found an internet trace for the 1,700-tonne cargo ship, Al Hamed, which showed the vessel started to off-load what Syrian officials categorised as "cement" on Sept 3.

This was three days before Israeli jets attacked a site in the north eastern desert of Syria, not far from its border with Iraq.

Since leaving Tartous, one of Syria's main ports on the Mediterranean, the ship's trace has disappeared and it is not known whether western intelligence agencies are tracking the vessel.
Dr. Aaron Lerner reports that the same ship also visited in June and July when it was also listed as carrying 'cement.'

I don't know how much we can conclude from all this except to say that it is highly likely that this is the ship that the Israelis may have suspected was delivering something other than cement, and that Syria may have been getting some awfully interesting deliveries from North Korea (especially since cement is a commodity that is widely available in the Arab world, which would make shipping it all the way from North Korea a suspicious act in and of itself). In fact, this Lebanese cement manufacturer claims to export a lot of cement to Syria.

Hmm....

3 Comments:

At 1:43 AM, Blogger The Doc said...

Hi Carl, interesting article indeed. Still, it's not the first time that "unorthodox" shipments arrive to Syria from North Korea.
You may recall how in September 2006 Interpol told Cypriot authorities that a ship, the Gregorio I, which had been loaded in China and North Korea and was destined for Latakia, might be smuggling ballistic missile components. Cyprus searched the ship only to discover that it contained air defense systems and not weapons for Mr Assad.
Best wishes
Bennauro

 
At 2:00 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Bennauro,

I remember it well. I blogged it at the time.

 
At 3:59 AM, Blogger Yishai said...

North Korea does have a cement company (Egypt recently invested in them), yet I agree: why ship the stuff 10,250 miles over water from North Korea to Syria? (I Google Earth'ed the shipping route. I know, I'm a nerd). There is nothing magical about cement, and it is quite heavy to warrant shipping it via waterways, then trucking/railroading it over land after that. Here is a site with more than you ever wanted to know about the cement industry, and includes this quote on shipping the stuff:

"The cement industry is also regional in nature. Because the cost of shipping cement quickly overtakes its value, customers traditionally purchase cement from local sources. Nearly 96% of U.S. cement is shipped to consumers by truck. Barge and rail modes account for the remaining distribution modes."

But then again, I probably shouldn't use an example from us capitalist dogs. Comrade Il is probably more interested in, well, money.

 

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