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December 4, 2016 / 4 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Red Sea’

Is Israel Hiding Water for Fat Cats’ Red-Dead Sea Pipeline?

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Politicians were falling all over themselves Monday to celebrate the signing in Washington of the agreement for what once was a pipe dream of a pipeline to pump water from the Red Sea to the Dead Seam, with the New Age of Peace involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

“This is a historic measure, which realizes a dream of many years. We have here politically important strategic cooperation between that Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority,” said Minister National Infrastructures Silvan Shalom.

The first phase of the mammoth project will include a desalination plant in Aqaba and will pipe water into the Dead Sea, the lowest point of earth and which has gone lower every year to the point that there are real fears it will disappear altogether one day.

The idea sounds great, and if it comes off without a hitch, it definitely will change the face of the southern Negev and Arava regions and the Jordan Valley, on both sides of the Jordan River.

The Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Israel all are holding hands together in a project that is supposed to show that the need for water can overcome politics and distrust.

The agreement for what is officially known as the Two Seas Project was signed in Washington by Shalom and Jordanian and Palestinian Authority water officials. The ceremony took place at the World Bank, which is raising up to $400 million from donor countries and philanthropists.

The entire bill for a much larger Dead-Red conveyance project is around $10 billion.

This is the same World Bank that helped finance and engineer Israel’s turning over agricultural infrastructure and greenhouses in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority regime in 2005, after the expulsion of Jews and the withdrawal of the IDF.

That boondoggle does not mean that the World Bank is always right, but it certainly means it is not always right. It is more interested in politics than economics, and good politics today means creating facts on the ground for the Great Middle East Peace.

In five years, water is supposed to start flowing into the Dead Sea, but the proposed amount is only a fraction of what the Dead Sea loses every year because evaporation and industrial use, such as the Dead Sea Works.

The project will give Jordan much needed water resources. Israel has agreed to pump more water from the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) for Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, which is Ramallah’s take for agreeing to forfeit claims that the northern part of the Dead Sea is to be under its sovereignty in its version of a Palestinian country.

So what could be wrong with such a project that increases the water supply and brings back the Dead Sea from levels that could endanger the environment?

Politically, like everything else in the Middle East, it is a gamble. Jordan is on the threshold of an explosion. “Palestinians” and Bedouin make up the bulk of the population but are least represented in the government. The Palestinian Authority still is a country on paper, most of it being the Euros on which it survives.

Financially, the project puts a tremendous burden on the world, but who cares so long as the new corporate universe needs these investments to feed their money machines.

The military-industry complex has sold trillions of dollars in weapons everywhere except Antarctica. Russian and China don’t care whether Iran gets a nuclear bomb so long as they can feed their appetite for billions of dollars by helping the Islamic Republic build nuclear facilities.

And now we have this new project to pump money into the engineering and construction firms who stand to make a bundle.

Environmentally, the project’s expert claim they have the knowledge and resources to overcome fears that pumping large quantities of Red Sea water into the Dead Sea could damage the Dead Sea’s fragile ecology. As sure as the World Bank is that the project will not upset ecology, the Friends of the Dead Sea are just as sure that the pipeline will destroy the environment

Let’s assume that the World Bank experts are right, which is a hefty assumption in an age where experts can prove anything they want.

The whole project may be unnecessary given that Israel’s own desalination plants will produce so much water that the Kinneret would reach flood levels every year, allowing the dam at the Kinneret to be opened to spill water into the Jordan River and down to the Dead Sea.

The Kinneret right now is about 2.6 meters, or 102 inches, below flood level and when the Degania dam would be opened. The lake usually rises more than that amount in a normal year.

It could rise even more because Israel has brought online three desalination plants and is building two more that can supply Israel with almost 70 percent of its water needs.

But the Water Authority has made an amazing decision. It plans to scale back production of desalinated water by 100 million cubic meters, the same amount that will be able to be produced at the facility under construction at Ashdod.

Globes pointed out last month that the government pays for overhead at the desalination plants and also pays for water that it does not buy, as per the contract. The bottom line is that the Water Authority will shell out 60 percent of the cost of water for fixed costs without receiving any water.

And what happens if there are a couple of dry years? Then the Water Authority will start pushing the desalination plants to work overtime while the level of the Dead Sea continues to drop.

Even worse, the Water Authority admitted to Globes, “Even if the plants don’t work at full capacity in the coming year, we will soon definitely need their output. Our models predict an even worse drought than the one before 2011 at the end of the decade. In addition, the Kinneret and aquifers still lack one billion cubic meters of water. The Israeli economy has a structural water shortage, and one rainy year does create a new reality.”

So why is it cutting back production?

Could it possibly be that the Water Authority does not want to open the dam at the Kinneret because doing so would help replenish the Dead Sea, and then how could the Red-Dead Seas project be justified?

Bringing back the Dead Sea to previous levels might not be possible, but it will be at least five years before the Dead-Red pipeline comes on line, and that assumes no political, financial and environmental delays. In the meantime, maximum production at the desalination plants would allow overflow from the Kinneret to add at least the same amount that is projected to come from the Red-Dead pipeline, and probably more in a rainy year, as is predicted this year.

The Water Authority’s reasoning for increasing pumping from the Kinneret instead of using desalinated water, and thus preventing the dam from being opened, is that “it is cheaper to pump water from natural sources than to buy water from the desalination plant at the full rate.”

The Water Authority made a fantastic Orwellian Double Speak statement to Globes. “There is no water surplus,” it said. “There is water production capacity for guaranteeing a reliable water supply, even during droughts. The Israeli government prepared for this in part by building seawater desalination plants, which supply water on the basis of need and the condition of the water economy. During droughts, when natural water supplies fall, we’ll need maximum production by the desalination plants, because the water demand does not change. In years with heavy rain, we have to deduce desalinated water production, because the variable cost is higher than the cost of natural water production.”

The Water Authority is ”saving” money by paying out most of the cost of desalinated water without using it, and it is lessening the need for the dam to be opened, which in turn deprives Jordan of water resources and deprives the Dead Sea of much needed water.

There is no water surplus because the Water Authority is preventing one.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Report: Israel Spotted Iranian Boat with Rockets for Gaza

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

The Sunday Times reported that Israeli spy satellites detected an Iranian ship loaded with rockets. According to the report, intelligence experts estimated that the shipment was intended to reach Gaza through the Red Sea, Sudan and Egypt.

The cargo was prepared for loading last week, at the time when Israel and the Hamas were negotiating the ceasefire. Israeli intelligence believes that it will be delivered from Iran to Sudan.

“We believe that Iranian warships anchored in Eritrea will accompany the weapons ship as soon as it will enter the Red Sea,” an Israeli source told the Times.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Rylands Haggadah: Medieval Jewish Art in Context

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org)
Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, New York; (212) 535-7710
Suggested Admission; Adults $25, Seniors $17, Students $12, Children under 12 Free.
Until September 30, 2012

The Rylands Haggadah, created in Catalonia Spain sometime around 1330, is a towering masterpiece of Jewish Art. In addition to pages of piyutim surrounded by ornate decorative and figurative micrography, richly decorated Haggadah text and blessings, there is a 13 page miniature cycle depicting the Exodus story from Moses at the Burning Bush to the Crossing of the Red Sea. This breathtaking work of art has not gone unnoticed. A full-scale facsimile of the Haggadah with a scholarly introduction and translation was published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in 1988, aspects of which were reviewed on this page in March 2001. More recently the Rylands Haggadah was extensively compared to its “Brother” British Library Haggadah in Marc Michael Epstein’s “The Medieval Haggadah (2011)” as well as Katrin Kogman-Appel’s briefer investigation in “Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain (2006).” Evidently one can even buy it as an iBook from iTunes. But most significantly for us, this diminutive gem is currently here in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until September 30 as part of a series of loans of Hebrew manuscripts funded by the David Berg Foundation. It is not to be missed.

The Met’s presentation under the supervision of curators Barbara Boehm and Melanie Holcomb has made every effort to present the miniature narrative cycle to its full advantage; “turning the page” every 4 weeks for the duration of the show. It is extremely unusual to actually show so many pages of a rare manuscript, especially since the Rylands Haggadah is very rarely shown even at home and was specially restored for this loan. Of course inherent to the exhibition of a bound manuscript is the fact that all of the images can never be physically seen at one time. While this could have been rectified by a digital and/or printed display, the Met chose to place this manuscript in the somewhat constricted space of the Medieval galleries in the effort to show “Medieval Jewish Art in Context,” here within the Christian Middle Ages. Additionally all the exhibited pages are beautifully reproduced on the Met website. The Met has programmed lectures and gallery talks to elucidate the complexities of the Rylands, the most notable of which was Marc Michael Epstein’s lecture on April 11, 2012, now available online (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaoAOA5jQm0).

As of July 31st the miniature pages of the Plague of Locusts and Plague of Darkness will be facing the Death of the First Born and the Sack of Egyptian Treasures. Epstein comments that the Rylands Haggadah seems to express a somewhat “more literal attention to the text of scripture,” especially in relation to its model, the “Brother” British Library Haggadah. Overall the Rylands is more bloodthirsty toward the Egyptians with “more frogs, lice, wild beasts, and boils, more hideous grimacing on the part of the afflicted Egyptians; more suffering…” than its “Brother.” In the Plague of Locusts no less than 13 giant locusts swarm around Pharaoh and his advisors, one of whom grimaces in terror. Moses and Aaron are seen on the left side of the illumination calmly pointing to the destruction in the human realm (i.e. Pharaoh and his court) and how in the agricultural realm next to Aaron, i.e. Goshen, the vegetation was unaffected. So too in the panel directly below, the Plague of Darknesscompletely obscures the hapless wide-eyed Egyptians while the Israelites smile and point at their misfortune, basking in the bright light, even under a starlit sky.

Death of the First Born, (ca.1330) Tempera, gold, ink on parchment: Rylands Haggadah
Courtesy The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester, England

On the opposite page the terrible Death of the First Born is depicted in uncompromising brutality. In the middle six panels, dead Egyptians, each mourned by two women, along with dead animals and a chained prisoner, are framed by Pharaoh on the right and Moses and Aaron on the left. Pharaoh seems to point accusingly at the death of innocents along with convicted prisoners whereas Moses and Aaron respond by pointing directly to him (and his hard heart) as the cause of so much agony. Interestingly Epstein comments that the wretched state of the dead prisoner forces us to notice that while the Egyptians (stand-ins for contemporary medieval Christians) were wicked, nonetheless they, “were to be depicted in a properly gracious and graceful manner,” much in the same tone and style as the oppressed and downtrodden Jews. It would seem that neither side was demonized.

Richard McBee

The Continuing Story of Yetziyas Mitzrayim

Monday, April 16th, 2012

         “And Hashem told Moshe, lift up thy rod over the sea and divide it”… And Moshe ordered the sea to divide.

         But the sea refused. “Why should I obey you,” it said, “You are but a man born of a woman and besides, I am three days older than you, I was established on the third day of creation, and you were created on the sixth day.”

         Moshe relayed what happened to the Almighty and prayed for help.  “Now is not the time for prayer,” said Hashem, “Lift up thy rod…”

         Immediately Moshe picked up his rod. The sea, however, remained very obstinate. Moshe then pleaded with Hashem that He should command the sea to divide. But the Almighty refused saying, “Were I to order the sea to divide it would never return to its former status. However, I will clothe you with a semblance of My strength to command its obedience.”

         When the sea saw Hashem’s strength on the right of Moshe, it became terrified. “Make way for me so that I may hide from the Lord of Hosts,” pleaded the sea.

         The waters of the Red Sea then divided and a miracle occurred throughout the world – all the waters in wells, caves, rivers and even in glasses also divided and remained so until Bnei Yisrael passed through the sea.

The Ten Miracles

         A number of miracles occurred at the Red Sea. 1. The waters of the sea formed a canopy over Bnei Yisrael’s heads. 2. Twelve separate lanes opened up, one for each of the shevatim. 3. The water between the shevatim became transparent as glass so they could all see each other. 4. The ground beneath was dry and warm, but it soon changed to a mire of mud when the Egyptians stepped into it. 5. The walls of the sea changed to jagged stone when the Egyptians entered and they were bruised terribly. 6. A stream of sweet drinking water flowed alongside Bnei Yisrael to quench their thirst. 7. Different types of fruit – apples, oranges, plums, etc. – extended from the walls of the sea allowing Bnei Yisrael to feast as they walked through the sea. 8. The reflection of these miracles was portrayed upon the clouds, which mirrored them to all the nations of the world who were awed by the stupendous might of G-d.

         And the Egyptians were smitten with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The pillar of cloud made the soil miry and the mire was heated to the boiling point so that the hoofs of the horses fell off and they could not budge from the spot. The torture of the Egyptians in the Red Sea was far worse than the pain they suffered through the plagues in Egypt, for they were delivered into the hands of the Angel of Destruction who battered them continuously. Had G-d not provided them with a double portion of strength they could not have withstood the pain. The Egyptians were tossed and shaken as peas in a pot. The rider and his horse were tossed high into the sky and then the two together were hurled to the bottom of the sea.

         And so all of the Egyptians were drowned. All except one, Pharaoh. When he heard Bnei Yisrael raise their voices in song, he pointed his finger heavenward and called out, “I believe in Thee, G-d. Thou art righteous and I am wicked and I now acknowledge that there is no G-d in the world beside Thee.” Immediately Gabriel descended and, placing an iron chain on his neck, raised him from the depths of the water. “Villain,” he said. “Yesterday you boasted, ‘Who is the Lord?’ and now you say, ‘The Lord is righteous.’” Whereupon he dropped him into the depths of the sea and kept him there for 50 days, showing him the ways of G-d. Later he installed him as king of the great city of Nineveh, for Pharaoh feared to return to Egypt.

         After many years, when Jonah came to Nineveh and prophesied the destruction of the city because of its inhabitants’ evil, it was Pharaoh who, seized by fear and terror, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. Having learned his lesson, Pharaoh issued the decree throughout Nineveh. “Let no one eat or drink, for I know that there is no G-d in all the world save Him. All His words are truth and all His judgments are true and faithful”
(Sotah 36, 37; Megillah 10; Pesachim 118; Midrash Shemos, Mechilta).

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Pesach

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

On April 14, 1912, at 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg. It sank at 2:20 a.m. on April 15. Thus, this month (both according to the Jewish and secular calendars) marks the centennial of the disaster. Despite the passage of time, the tragedy still fascinates people and continues to be a source of lessons learned – both good and bad. Recently, when the Costa Concordia sank off the Italian coast, comparisons were made between the captain of this ill-fated ship and Captain Edward Smith, the master of the Titanic. Most striking was the fact that not only did the captain of the Costa Concordia survive the ordeal, as opposed to Captain Smith, who went down with his ship, but that the Costa Concordia’s captain abandoned ship early in the ordeal, leaving his crew and passengers to sort things out for themselves. Captain Smith, in contrast, remained on board and in command throughout the doomed lifesaving efforts. History, for the most part, has been kind to Smith, portraying him as a gallant officer doing his utmost to save his passengers and crew.

While Smith was no coward, and he certainly understood his responsibility, the truth about his leadership is actually rather complicated. Some have blamed him for ordering the Titanic to maintain its high speed despite the ice warnings he had received. Others point to his arrogant faith in human engineering, which caused him to not properly consider the dangers lurking in the sea. However, in truth, he can be exonerated for these missteps, for he was merely following the conventional practice and wisdom of the time. Captains, for the most part, believed the expedient thing was to try and get through ice fields as quickly as possible. It was felt that lookouts could spot potential danger in time and helmsmen could maneuver the ship accordingly, with time to spare. That few people fully understood the physics involved with moving and slowing down a ship the Titanic’s size was a function of the time, not a failure on Smith’s part.

But the story does not end there. Once tragedy struck Smith seems to have been a mediocre leader at best. He first kept the true nature of the accident from crew and passengers alike, thus mitigating people’s sense of emergency and urgency. While Smith knew there were not enough lifeboats for all aboard, the sad reality is that there was capacity for 400 more people than ultimately survived. Many people who could have boarded lifeboats refused to do so because they felt it was safer to remain on the ship. He also seems to have given ambiguous orders, often staying on the bridge instead of actively supervising the evacuation. Psychologists who have studied the disaster suggest that Smith became somewhat dysfunctional after the collision.

However, there is a person whose actions that night make him a leadership model to study. Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, the ship that rushed to Titanic’s location and rescued the survivors, did almost everything right that night. After having been awakened close to 12:30 a.m. on April 15 and informed of the Titanic’s plight, Rostron immediately went into action. He summoned all department heads to the bridge and began issuing clear orders. He ordered the engineers to divert all steam to the engines and away from all other uses – including the heating and electrical needs of cabins and public rooms. This enabled the ship to travel somewhat faster than its usual top speed. He also told the chief steward: “Have your men turn all three dining rooms into hospitals. Send bedroom stewards through empty third class cabins and gather up blankets to warm on the boilers. I want plenty of hot coffee, cocoa, and brandy at both port doors” (Titanic Tragedy: A New Look At The Lost Liner by John Maxtone-Graham, 2011, p.140). He then ordered ladders and other boarding devices, and special lights, to be at the doors to enable safe boarding. To ensure the safety of his ship he posted extra lookouts to spot icebergs.

Unfortunately, the Carpathia arrived after the Titanic sank and was only able to rescue those people who were in the lifeboats. However, if not for Captain Rostron’s decisive and inspired leadership that night many of those people in the lifeboats might themselves have succumbed to the elements. That night Rostron was present, focused and involved.

On the seventh day of Pesach we read in the Torah about the miracle of the Red Sea crossing. Thousands of years ago Moshe Rabbeinu already taught the world what leadership against the backdrop of a dangerous sea is all about. Bnei Yisrael had just recently left Egypt and suddenly their erstwhile masters were charging at them with state of the art military forces. They had barely tasted the fruits of freedom when they seemed poised to suffer a humiliating recapture or even worse– death. Bnei Yisrael could not fathom why G-d freed them if this were to be the ignoble outcome. It is within this context that they panicked and exclaimed to Moshe that it would have been better to remain in Egypt. If their fate was to be death, there were more than enough graves in Egypt.

Rabbi David Hertzberg

Yoram Ettinger: Passover – An Inalienable American Value

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

http://www.theettingerreport.com/OpEd/OpEd—Israel-Hayom/Passover-%E2%80%93-An-Inalienable-American-Value.aspx

 

Passover, and especially the legacy of Moses and the Exodus, has been part of the American story since the seventeenth century, inspiring the American pursuit of liberty, justice, and morality.

The special role played by Passover – and the Bible – in shaping the American state of mind constitutes the foundation of the unique relations between the American people and the Jewish state. As important as the current mutual threats and interests between the US and Israel are, the bedrock of the unbreakable US-Israel alliance are entrenched values, principles and legacies, such as Passover.

In 1620 and 1630, William Bradford and John Winthrop delivered sermons on the Mayflower and Arbella, referring to the deliverance from “modern day Egypt and Pharaoh,” to “the crossing of the modern day Red Sea” and to New Zion/Canaan as the destination of the Pilgrims on board.

In 1776, Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense (which cemented public support for the revolution), referred to King George as the “hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh.” Upon declaration of independence, Benjamin Franklin (the most secular Founding Father), John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the second third American Presidents respectively, proposed a Passover theme for the official US seal: the Pillar of Fire leading Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea, while Pharaoh’s chariots drown in the Sea. The inscription on the seal was supposed to be: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God,” framing the rebellion against the British monarchy as principle-driven. The lessons of the Jewish deliverance from Egyptian bondage reverberated thunderously among the Rebels, who considered the thirteen colonies to be “the modern day Twelve Tribes.”

The 19th century Abolitionists, and the Civil Rights movement from the 1940s to the 1970s, were inspired by the ethos of the Exodus and by the Bible’s opposition to slavery. In the 1830s, the Liberty Bell, an icon of American independence, was adopted by the Abolitionists, due to its Exodus-inspired inscription: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), and her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe (“The Little Rabbi”) were scholars of the Bible and the Exodus. Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery in 1849 and freed Black slaves on the Underground Railroad, earned the name “Moses.” The 1879/80 Black slaves who ran away to Kansas were called “the Exodusters.” The most famous spiritual, “Go Down, Moses” was considered the unofficial national anthem of Black slaves.

In 1865, following the murder of President Lincoln, most eulogies compared him to Moses. Just like Moses, Lincoln liberated slaves, but was stopped short of the Promised Land.France paid tribute to the martyred Lincoln by erecting the Statue of Liberty, featuring rays of sun and a tablet, just like the glaring Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments.

In 1954, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. compared the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to desegregate public schools to the parting of the Red Sea. In 1964, upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King proclaimed: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go.’”

President Reagan mentioned (Reagan at Westminster, 2010) Exodus as the first incident in a long line of Western resistance to tyranny: “Since the exodus from Egypt, historians have written of those who sacrificed and struggled for freedom – the stand at Thermopylae, the revolt of Spartacus, the storming of the Bastille, the Warsaw uprising in World War II.”

In July, 2003, President Bush stated, in Senegal, that “in America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the exodus from Egypt, and set their own hearts on a promised land of freedom.”

In March, 2007, Senator Obama said in Selma, Alabama that the civil rights pioneers were the “Moses generation” and he was part of the “Joshua generation” that would “find our way across the river.”

And today, in 2012, a statue of Moses stares at the Speaker of the House, another towers above the seats of the Supreme Court Justices, a Ten Commandment monument sits on the ground of the Texas State Capitol, and a similar monument will be shortly erected on the ground of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

In 2012, the leader of the Free World and its sole soul ally in the Mid-East, Israel, are facing the most lethal threat to liberty since 1945 – conventional and non-conventional Islamic terrorism. Adherence to the legacy of Passover, marshaling the conviction-driven leadership of Moses, and demonstrating Joshua and Caleb’s courage and defiance of odds, will once again facilitate the victory of liberty over tyranny.

Yoram Ettinger

J.E. Dyer: Strategic Ambiguity Watch – The Maritime Version

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

No sooner do we establish that (a) Iran wants strategic ambiguity, and (b) Iran’s got it, than we see a fresh round of strategic ambiguity busting out.  Strategic ambiguity looks to be the gift that will keep on giving.

You might think the big news from the last 24 hours would be the report that Iran declined to load a Greek tanker with oil for Greek refineries, thus sparking concerns that the Iranians will cut off oil to hard-pressed Greece entirely.  Tehran has already officially stopped deliveries to France and the UK.  The Europeans are worried that a cut in Iranian oil could sink any hope of a recovery for the Greeks – and that Iran might threaten to extend the embargo to Italy, which also depends on Iranian oil.

In the wake of this report, the Iranian government hastened to announce that it hasn’t cut off shipments to Greece.  So it isn’t clear what’s going on, and strategic ambiguity can check another item off the to-do list.   Gasoline has surged to about $8.10 a gallon in the UK (not yet the $9.00 a gallon being trumpeted by Iranian media), so – check, check!

But that’s not really the big news.  The big news is that the Iranian parliament is working on legislation that would require foreign warships to obtain permission from Iran to pass through the Strait of Hormuz.  How could Iran enforce such a requirement?  Well, that’s exactly the fun of strategic ambiguity.   Maybe they’ll try, and maybe they won’t.  As the Iranians say, ‘it will depend on us.’

Apart from a last-ditch resort to something like mining the Strait of Hormuz (SOH), the most likely Iranian approach would be to take advantage of an incident in the SOH, or even create one, to justify cranking up Iranian oversight of “safety and security” by half a notch or so.  A diplomatic win on that exploratory probe could be leveraged to increase Iran’s effective control incrementally – unless each new measure was directly challenged.  If the US were unwilling to do the challenging, strategic ambiguity would be a lot more fun for Iran than for the rest of us.

You do need a quiescent partner on the other side of the Strait for an oblique approach of this kind.  And sure enough, besides conducting a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz (SOH) in mid-February, Iran concluded a new naval cooperation agreement with Oman on the 12th, and plans to conduct a joint naval exercise with Oman in March.  Earlier in February, moreover, the Iranian navy’s commander stated that the Iranian naval task force in the Red Sea would visit the port of Salalah, Oman in March.  That would be a first since the 1979 revolution, and would put the Iranian navy in the company of all the other global navies in the region (including the US Navy), which visit the major port of Salalah on a regular basis.  Iran is establishing a new naval posture as we speak.

The new Iranian naval posture extends its strategic ambiguity to Saudi Arabia.  During the Iranian task force’s triumphal sideswipe at Syria – where the ships reportedly entered port, although the Pentagon “has no evidence of it” (see my comment at this link for a summary of data points on the question) – an Iranian parliamentarian announced that Iran was displaying her naval power in the region, as a warning and a portent.  The ships had stopped in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Jeddah on the way to the Mediterranean, so this saber-rattling didn’t sit well with the Saudis.

Therefore, the Saudi ministry of defense has just issued a statement clarifying the basis on which it authorized the Iranian warships to visit Jeddah.  And the salient point is that Saudi Arabia wasn’t down for the “naval warning” business.  The Saudis understood they were agreeing to a port visit for ships on a training cruise.

In general, the Saudis are feeling squeezed by Iran; a Die Welt report from 15 February, summarized at the al-Akhbar website on the 21st, indicated that Riyadh sponsored a Gulf States  meeting in January to discuss Iran’s continued arms sales to Hezbollah.  The Saudis didn’t openly disclose anything we don’t already know about the Iranian smuggling routes, but apparently they excluded Qatar from the meeting, because they don’t consider the emirate “reliable on issues related to Iran.”

Meanwhile, down south of the Saudi border, Iran continues to supply the Houthi rebels in Yemen – a Shia group that operates as a scourge of Riyadh as well as Sana’a.  On 15 February, Yemeni authorities reported intercepting another ship from Iran carrying heavy weapons for the Houthis.  It is accepted fact in the Arabian Peninsula that Iran’s paramilitary operates from islands in the southern Red Sea, supporting activities in both Yemen and Eritrea.  In a recently translated al-Arabiya interview from June 2011, a Kuwaiti professor stated that Iran leases three islands from Eritrea and uses them for military training.

J. E. Dyer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/j-e-dyer-strategic-ambiguity-watch-the-maritime-version/2012/02/28/

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