Sunday, February 13, 2011

12-Feb-11: Another thing to keep us awake at night

A respected commentator on security matters in this neighborhood posted a seriously alarming note today about Iran and its growing ambitions.

Iranian Warships Call in Jeddah

Warships of the Islamic Revolutionary Iranian Navy have never visited a Saudi port until this week. Jeddah is on the Red Sea, where Iranian warships have occasionally ventured since they were first dispatched in late 2008 for anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. Regional reporting has indicated that Iranian patrol ships have made port calls in the Red Sea port of Assab, Eritrea (where other unconfirmed reports have it that Iran has deployed missiles – of unknown type – and a contingent of troops). But until now, there has been no port call in Saudi Arabia and no hint of one.  Indeed, Saudi reporting from November 2009 registered grave concern over Iranian activities in the Red Sea. The two-ship Iranian task force, consisting of two British-built vessels, Vosper Mark V-class frigate Alvand and supply ship Kharg, left Iran on 26 January, according to Iranian news sources. The next day, a senior naval officer announced that the task force, deployed as the 12th Naval Group, “would enter the Red Sea and the Mediterranean waters.”  The prospect of a Mediterranean deployment is as unprecedented as the Saudi port visit. There is no guarantee it will actually happen, but the timing is interesting.
Commander Dyer turns her attention to how the changes in Egypt are connected...
While the Mubarak regime was in power, there was little possibility of Egypt permitting an Iranian naval task force to transit the Suez Canal... The current [Iranian] regime engages in a lot of bluster, but putting warships in the Red Sea port of America’s long-time partner Saudi Arabia is genuine action. For no navy on earth – not even ours [America's] – is a naval deployment undertaken easily or lightly. This is a big deal for them.  It’s also a big deal for Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis have been alarmed about revolutionary Iran’s activities for a long time; the chill between the two nations has meant precisely that things like naval port visits don’t happen.  The Saudis wouldn’t have accepted this visit if they didn’t perceive their US-backed position as vulnerable and exposed.
The whole article is worth a read; it's here. And for the Iranian version, try this. Here's a taste, quoting Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari whose face appears in the newsclip above:
"He expressed hope Iran would be a messenger of peace and friendship for the regional nations by sending its warships to the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea as well as to ports in friendly and Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia." 
Forgive us for being a touch apprehensive about what this message of "peace" and "friendship" the docking of Iranian warships might actually entail. Iran's proxies in the north of our country (Hezbollah) and the south (Hamas) have given us Israelis plenty of reason in the past few years.


Sue Bursztynski said...

I turned to this werb site to see what you had to say about the Egyptian issue. We're all discussing implications in Australia right now, but that story hasn't appeared in our papers yet. Is it likely to?

The View from Ramot said...

We haven't seen this reported in regular news channels either. It seemed appropriate to our blog because of our focus on terrorism and the little-noticed nature of almost everything connected with what the Iranian regime does. The unfolding situation in Egypt has of course got plenty of potential for keeping us awake at night too, notwithstanding (maybe even because of) all the euphoric declarations of a new and citizen-friendly democratic future; that future does not seem so self-evident to us, and we will probably publish some comments on that too in the coming days.