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July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Suez Canal’

El-Sisi: Egypt Will Keep Bab-el-Mandeb Open

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Egyptian President abdel El-Sisi said on Saturday that Egypt will ensure that the El-Mandab strait remains open for traffic, stating, “El-Mandab strait is Egyptian and Arab national security,” according to an Al Ahram report.

Iranian supported Houthi rebels are trying to take over Yemen.

If Iran blocks the El-Mandab strait it would directly and disastrously affect Egypt’s Suez Canal traffic, which is Egypt’s main sources of income.

The Bab-el-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. It is sometimes called the Mandab Strait. The Bab-el-Mandeb acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels (520,000 m3) of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day (6,800,000 m3/d) moved by tankers, according to Wikipedia.

Since the Saudi led intervention in Yemen began, Egypt has sent air and sea support to the region, but no ground troops as of yet. Sending ground troops has not been ruled out, if needed.

El-Sisi vowed to support the Arab Gulf countries, “Our benefit is in the security and stability of the Arab countries, and the whole world if possible… We will not let down our brotherly Gulf countries.”

Obama Let 40-Year-Old Oil Supply Guarantee to Israel Expire in November 2014

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Originally published at Liberty Unyielding

The Obama administration should give lessons in passive aggression.

Eying the impending Israeli election as a political influence operation wasn’t the only thing it was doing in November 2014. It was also letting a 40-year-old strategic guarantee to Israel expire.

The guarantee, which says the U.S. will ensure that Israel has access to oil in case of security emergencies, dates originally to September 1975, when Israel and Egypt were negotiating elements of an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai after the 1973 War. Throughout those negotiations, which culminated in the 1979 peace treaty, the status of the Sinai oil fields was a core issue. Israel had obtained oil from them since occupying the Sinai after the 1967 War, when an Arab coalition attacked, and Israel seized territory to maintain a defensive perimeter.

The U.S. oil guarantee was instrumental in giving the Israelis a secure basis for withdrawing from the Sinai. The use of the oil fields was one aspect of that dynamic; another was Egypt’s closure of the Suez Canal from 1967 to June 1975. The Canal closure affected trade of all kinds, and specifically had the potential to disrupt Israel’s energy supplies – as effectively, by driving prices up, as they would be disrupted by an actual cut-off.

Because of this dual vulnerability, the U.S. guarantee looks not only at whether Israel is able to obtain oil, but how much it costs her to. The guarantee can kick in for either reason. (It entails ensuring that Israel can buy oil; it’s not a guarantee that the U.S. will supply oil for free.)

A Congressional Research Service study done early in 2014, before the most recent agreement expired, can be found here. It outlines the history of the guarantee. The agreement was formalized in 1979, with an initial period of 15 years, ending on 25 November 1994. It was extended twice after that, each time for 10 years, and most recently expired – without renewal – on 25 November 2014.

Interestingly, Reuters cited an unnamed State Department official on that date claiming that State was “working on” renewing the agreement. It never happened, however, and on 12 March, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to John Kerry requesting that he attend to the matter immediately.

It’s not clear what “work” would have to be done to renew this agreement. It is clear, on the other hand, that it’s an agreement that was made for important reasons, and that those reasons are not only still valid: they are more of a concern today than they were 10 years ago. Since the last renewal in November 2004, Israel has pulled out of Gaza; the Arab Spring has thrown the region into tremendous turmoil; the threat of terrorism and guerrilla action in the Sinai has increased; and Iran’s navy has extended its operations dramatically, into the Red Sea and even the Eastern Mediterranean. The potential threats to Israeli trade, and specifically to Israel’s energy imports, have increased significantly since 10 years ago.

Israel has huge reserves of natural gas, but remains dependent on foreign sources for oil. The U.S. guarantee has never had to be invoked, but keeping it in place is far from an academic exercise. The Globes report quotes an Israeli source:

Israel has never invoked the agreement, but Israel sources say that its importance lies in its very existence. An Israeli source compared the oil supply agreement to the loan guarantee agreement between the two countries that enables Israel to obtain commercial loans at low rates of interest. “Israel used the loan guarantee agreement very sparingly, but it is important that the loan guarantees agreement should exist, and the same applies to the energy agreement that guaranteed a regular supply of oil,” the source said, “We never used it, but it’s important that it should lie signed in a drawer.”

Israeli March Protests Railway Route to Eilat

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

A small group of activists are protesting government plans to build a railway line to Eilat.

A group of nearly two dozen youth and young adults marched from Dimona to the Red Sea resort city at the tip of the Negev this weekend to protest the plans.

The protesters and other naturalists are fighting the plan because they fear the railway will destroy the delicate ecosystem that exists in the area. Current plans call for the route to pass through 37 kilometers of nature reserves.

Critics also say that construction on the line may endanger coral reefs in the Red Sea off the southern coast in the Gulf of Aqaba near Eilat.

The plan, approved about nine months ago, is intended to creating a “land bridge” between Europe and Asia. It is aimed at bypassing the Suez Canal in order to ensure that Israeli and international shippers will have an alternative shipping route should the Egyptians ever again decide to close that artery.

Egypt’s Systemic Collapse

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Egyptian flag is red, white and black with an eagle in the center. Until quite recently, this flag has been a symbol of national consensus symbolizing that all citizens of Egypt, without regard to their political orientation, are sheltered together beneath the wings of the eagle. But this consensus may be starting to crack, and because of the complex nature of the crisis – constitutional, governmental and economic – a growing number of citizens in Egypt believe that the continued existence of the state as one political unit is doubtful. It seems that Egyptian society has been undergoing a corrosive process, ever since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” two years ago, which is undermining the sense of unity and shared destiny in the Land of the Nile.

This process began to be apparent after the unprecedented step taken by the Egyptian judiciary, when it sentenced to death 21 people in Port Said, a port city near the Northern opening of the Suez Canal, because of their involvement in the deaths of 74 people during a soccer game that was held in the city in February of 2012.

When they heard about the sentence, the enraged residents of the city burst into the streets in stormy demonstrations in which more than forty people were killed. It must be noted, however, that some of the fatalities were caused by a barrage of heavy gunfire at the mass funeral of 31 people that had been killed in previous demonstrations.

Disregarding any political consideration, the death toll in Egypt testifies to the fact that the value of life in this densely populated country has been depreciated. Ninety million men, women and children are crowded into the length of the Nile Valley and its delta, with a few concentrations along the canal and the coasts. About one half of them live below the poverty line, which is low to begin with, and about one third of them live in “unplanned neighborhoods,” some in wooden crates, without running water, sewage, electricity or telephone, without employment, without hope and without a future, but crime, violence, drugs and alcohol abound.

In demonstrations in Port Said, there are demands to secede from the state of Egypt. In a graphic illustration of these demands, the demonstrators waved flags where they had changed the color of the upper part of the flag from red to green, with a clear Islamist reference, and instead of the eagle, the name of the city “Port Said” was in the center.

The curfew that was imposed on the city did not help quiet stormy spirits either, and the masses burst into the streets despite the curfew. The police used tear gas against them but to no avail. The army took up a position near the government offices in order to defend them from the raging mob. Military officers claim that they did not open fire and they have no idea how forty people were killed. The Egyptian in the street, who knows the truth, doesn’t buy the story because he understands the matter well: if forty people were killed despite the fact that the army “didn’t shoot”, they wonder how many would have been killed if the army had actually had opened fire

A local group calling itself “The Port Said Youth Bloc” issued a declaration, stating:

We, the people of Port Said, declare the cancellation of Morsi’s legal status; he is no longer the president of Egypt. We call for masses of the Egyptian people to express their solidarity and join the people of Port Said who are being murdered in the streets by the armored Egyptian police before the very eyes of the Egyptian government. The people of Port Said will continue to stand strong even if, as a result of these demonstrations, all of its sons will fall. This expression, “the people of Port Said,” which is repeated a number of times in the manifesto, is an expression of the mood of the residents of the city.

The demand of the people of Port Said to secede from Egypt horrifies the heads of the Egyptian government, because if indeed they do actually separate the area of the Canal from the state of Egypt, the state will lose its main source of income – fees of passage paid by ships that traverse the Canal. If this should happen, considering the recent loss of tourism and foreign investments, Egypt will go bankrupt immediately.

Defense Round Up: U.S. Showing Weakness Abroad

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

This is not your father’s Egypt, under the evolving rule of Mohammed Morsi.  This is a Sinai-militarizing, Jerusalem-coveting, trash-talking Egypt.  (Wait – maybe that is your father’s Egypt.)  And Egyptian officials have quickly turned their trash-talking skills on their one-time partner, the United States.

Sadly, the statements of Suez Canal Authority chairman Mohab Mamish sounded just credible enough to get legs in the U.S. media.  According to Mamish, when Iranian frigate Alvand approached the Suez Canal in February 2012, headed for Syria, the U.S. asked Egypt to prohibit Alvand’s transit through the Canal.  In a 26 August interview, Mamish also refers to a “U.S. request to strike” the Iranian ship at the time.

The latter assertion is just silly, and tips off the unbelievable nature of the whole tale.  No one in the U.S. military chain of command, up to and including President Obama, would think it was a good idea to “strike” the Iranian frigate.  But even if someone did, doing so at the Suez Canal, with the full knowledge of Egypt, is as wrong as it gets, approach- and venue-wise.  If the U.S. were going to “strike” another nation’s warship under the circumstances of the Alvand’s transit, we’d just do it wherever we wanted to during the ship’s transit, without asking another nation for permission to do it in her territorial waters.

Similarly, the statement about the U.S. asking to have the Alvand turned back at the Suez Canal fails to hold up under scrutiny.  It would be a very big deal to ask Egypt to prohibit the transit of a sovereign nation’s warship, and frankly, the U.S. would have to know such a request would be turned down.  Egypt has cooperated, since the inauguration of the War on Terror, in the interdiction of merchant ships carrying arms for terrorists (e.g., Hezbollah).  But a warship is the representative of her nation, and stopping an Iranian frigate would be, in effect, a declaration of failing relations between Egypt and Iran.

Of course that’s Egypt’s call to make.  Moreover, there are literally dozens of U.S. professionals in the State Department, Defense Department, and on the National Security Council staff who know that asking Egypt to do this would be a foolish and inappropriate request.  You don’t ask Egypt to just stick her neck out.  The goal of preventing Iranian arms from getting to Syria is a sound one, but deputizing Egypt to take the risk of the showdown with Iran – especially when the U.S. is being passive and following from behind – is an unsound approach.

The ideologues on Obama’s national-security team may not know that, but their career staffers do.  If this issue got to Obama’s level, I imagine there was someone conveying the sensible point of view.  That said, I’m not convinced the U.S. ever entertained this course of action at all.  It sounds like a fabrication to me, or at the very least, a wild exaggeration.

If I had to guess the purpose of these statements, I would say it’s to establish the theme of Egypt standing up to and confounding the United States.  The following paragraph appears in the Breitbart and original World Tribune stories:

Mamish says the Egyptian military has “tight control” of the canal at this time, intimating that they are the ones making decisions about which nations will and won’t be allowed to pass through it. The U.S. has no say in the matter.

Well, of course we have no say in the matter.  We never have.  Egypt runs the Canal.  This is not a point that needs to be reaffirmed – complete with tales about how Egypt stood up to the U.S. – unless Egypt perceives a need to score political points.  And that appears to be what’s going on.

Defense without, er, defense

Meanwhile, as recently as Wednesday, Stars & Stripes had a story on the new, deployable tactical operations center the U.S. 10th Army (based in Germany) will take to Israel for Exercise Austere Challenge 2012.  The deployable TOC supports air and missile defense, and is to be a central feature of the high-priority ballistic-missile defense (BMD) facet of Austere Challenge.  Using Austere Challenge to exercise missile defense is in line with President Obama’s emphasis on missile defense for Israel as a security response to the Iranian threat.

Iran Funded Bombing of Israeli Ship in Suez Canal

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

According to Al-Ahram, two Egyptians were offered 50 million Egyptian pounds by Iranian agents to attack an Israeli ship in the Suez Canal.

Soliman Rizq Abdel Razeq, from Sheikh Zayed in Ismailia governorate, was planning to attack the ship from East Kantara.

Abdel Razeq allegedly tried to recruit accomplices and said his aim was to damage the economy.

Salama Ahmed Salama Soliman, also from Sheikh Zayed, joined the alleged plot and was arrest along with Abdel Razeq.

Both men have been detained for 15 days pending further investigations.

The ‘Israel Wins’ Headline

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
This week’s The Way We Were feature (page 75) takes a look at the issue of The Jewish Press published during the first week of the Yom Kippur War. The headline on that week’s front page became something of a legend – and not in a positive way.
Back in 2007 the Monitor put that headline in perspective and made the case that it wasn’t something so outlandish after all. It seems fitting to run that column again, slightly modified, as we mark the anniversary of the start of that war.
A reader raised the issue of the “Israel Wins” headline that appeared on the front page of The Jewish Press during the first week of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The reader noted that for years – even decades – afterward, that headline was a staple in the conversation of just about anyone intent on disparaging the paper. Why this was so she’s not exactly sure – true, the war was far from won at the time, and the huge type the paper chose to use fairly screamed “cheesy tabloid” – but, as she recalled, all media outlets were bullish on a quick Israeli victory in the opening days of the war.
The reader was absolutely right, and perhaps now is as good a time as any to look at some of the circumstances surrounding that headline.
The early 1970’s were a relatively primitive time in terms of news transmission. There were no personal computers, no 24-hour cable news channels, and of course there was no Internet. News footage was shot on film; transporting it even short distances and then processing it took several hours, and footage from overseas took even longer. News traveled at a much more relaxed pace compared to what we’ve since become accustomed to. It could take days for perceptions to take hold, let alone change from one extreme to another.
The Yom Kippur War commenced on Saturday, Oct. 6. The Sunday newspapers in America carried some sketchy accounts of the war’s preliminary stages. Greater detail began to emerge on Monday, with The New York Times’s Terence Smith reporting that “Israeli forces have blocked the advance of Egyptian and Syrian armies and cut off a force of about 400 Egyptian tanks that had established two bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal…”
That same day, the Times’s Robert McFadden wrote: “Claiming superiority in the skies, Israel said her jets had struck deep inside Egypt and Syria, crippled Syrian air defenses and severed nine of 11 Egyptian bridges across the Suez Canal…”
On Tuesday Oct. 9, the Times’s Charles Mohr, reporting from Tel Aviv, weighed in: “Israeli officers began today to refer to the Middle East war in the past tense, personally confident that the short-term outcome was now a foregone conclusion…”
The new issue of Time magazine informed readers that “By Sunday morning, after nearly a day of intense fighting, Israeli forces had seized the initiative on both fronts…. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said that the mop-up might take several days, but that the curious battle of Yom Kippur was already decided.”
The Jewish Press is put to bed Tuesday evenings. As of Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 9, the newspapers, the newsweeklies, television and radio all were painting a picture of an aroused Israel roaring back after having suffered setbacks very early on. The media completely fell for the line being peddled by the Israeli government.
If you were composing a headline for a Jewish newspaper on that particular day, the choice of “Israel Wins” made perfect sense – particularly if the newspaper was a weekly and you didn’t want to appear outdated by the end of the week when, as everyone thought they knew from all the optimistic reports coming out of Israel, the fighting would be over with the Arabs in full retreat.
By the end of that first week of war, however, it was clear that far from winning handily, Israel was taking heavy casualties, the Arab armies were performing better than anyone had expected, and there was no indication as to when the fighting would be over and in what shape Israel would emerge from it.
The tone of the following week’s Jewish Press reflected the altered perception, with coverage that can best be described as disappointed though cautiously optimistic. But the “Israel Wins” headline took on a life of its own, becoming a cudgel in the hands of critics intent on ignoring the similar reporting to be found in other media outlets during those first frenzied days of fighting.

 

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/the-israel-wins-headline/2010/09/21/

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