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Monday, February 02, 2009

About that Iranian arms ship

On Sunday I reported that Cyprus has detained an Iranian arms ship flying the Cypriot flag that was enroute to Syria. The ship is now anchored off Limassol. Haaretz is reporting that Cypriot diplomats claim that the ship was stopped as a 'gesture' to the United States.
According to the diplomats, the search of the ship was delayed due to the weekend and because of the great care the government is taking in dealing with what it considers to be a very sensitive affair. One of the reasons for the sensitivity is the fact that Cyprus is governed by the Communist Party, which is concerned over the fact that the ship is Russian-owned.

The diplomats said that the government of Cyprus understands that the ship is "Cypriot for all intents and purposes" in terms of international law, because it is flying the Cypriot flag, and added there was no legal obligation to detain the vessel. "We could have let it sail on to Syria and disappear there," one diplomat said.

The officials did note, however, that detaining the ship was part of a decision to respond to an American request.

"This was an opportunity to show the new U.S. administration that we are interested in closer ties," one source said. "We stopped the ship as a gesture to the United States."
According to Haaretz, Israel, which was prevented by the United States from stopping the ship, wants the ship unloaded in Limassol.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday ... that pressure should be brought to bear on the Cypriots to unload it completely at the Limmasol port.

Barak also said that the weapons that have been found so far on board were apparently not intended for Hamas, but for the Syrian army. However, he noted, there are still 30 to 40 containers yet to be checked.

"From our perspective, the question is whether they contain other things intended for Hezbollah or Hamas," Barak said.
But DEBKA says there's another story playing out behind the scenes. Although I have not verified it elsewhere, this sounds credible.
Israel informed Washington, Cairo and Nicosia that surface missiles bound for Hamas are concealed in the steel holds of the Cypriot-flagged Iran Hedayt which the US intercepted but did not stop in the Red Sea last week.

DEBKAfile's military sources report that after neither the US nor Egypt laid hands on the cargo when they had the chance, Cyprus finds itself stuck Saturday, Jan 31, with hard choices: the US and Israel are pressing Nicosia not to let the ship go without a further search for fear Israel will seize it and precipitate an armed clash with Iran. [I doubt that's why Israel is pressing not to let the ship go - I don't believe Israel fears that confrontation. But I believe the US fears it because of what it would do to the price of oil and to the Hopenchange administration's plans to cozy up with Tehran. CiJ] Tehran on the other hand threatens Nicosia with diplomatic and economic retribution if the vessel is not released forthwith.

Friday, Cyprus president Demetris Christofias said a ship anchored off Limassol was being searched carrying cargo that contravenes UN resolutions. Cyprus state radio reported the vessel may have been traveling from Iran to Syria with weapons destined for Hamas.

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni informed Nicosia that the cargo aboard the Iran Hedayt contravened the UN Security Council Resolution 1747 which forbids Iran to export arms under international sanctions.

But foreign minister Markos Kyprianou later backpedalled by saying the authorities were still trying to determine if the ship's cargo contravenes United Nations resolutions.

After Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said on Jan. 28 that the US Navy had no authority to seize the weapons aboard the Iranian vessel –"The US did as much as we could" - Nicosia too is reviewing its options.
As I noted yesterday, the US refused to allow Israel to seize the ship last week. Caroline Glick points out that the US refusal shows how empty foreign minister Tzipi Livni's agreement with Condi Clueless really is:

I'm betting the Iranians end up getting their way. If Iran can intimidate the Obama Navy, what chance is there that the Cypriots will stand up to the mullahs?

I suppose this is the great international cooperation that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was referring to when she applauded her diplomatic skills in signing that bizarre Memorandum of Understanding with Condoleezza Rice on the latter's last day in office.

But hey - Livni was a Mossad agent.


At 1:36 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

And Israel now has to defer to Washington before she can stop Iran from resupplying Hamas?

Just what kind of "understanding" is that? Tzipi Livni should explain it all to Israeli voters. They have a right to know what Israel's possible next Prime Minister knows before they vote.


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