Putting Iran In Context

Standard

Sensible letter to the Economist from Sir Richard Dalton, a former Ambassador to Iran:

SIR – Do you really think Iran could become a regional hegemon (“Can Iran be stopped?”, June 22nd)? In one respect or another, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Turkey and Egypt are all as strong or stronger. Iran cannot even dominate the Gulf. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, tend to exaggerate Iranian influence, including in Bahrain and Yemen.

Only from southern Lebanon does Iran have the ability to project serious power. For sure, it has a strong influence in Iraq, some in Gaza, and a tightening alliance with Syria, but this merely allows Iran to maintain the position it has enjoyed for many years. This still doesn’t amount to “regional hegemony”.

You also did not mention that Iran has a policy of converting its 20% enriched uranium into oxide, ready for research-reactor fuel-making. This puts the material beyond use for bombs (short of a time-consuming, detectable and technically demanding process to turn it back into gas, which can be discounted in the medium term). That is why the United States and Israel seem relaxed about waiting for the autumn before a new round of negotiations.

The idea that everyone would bow down before Iran if it got nuclear-weapons capability is fanciful. Actions lead to reactions, and one of the reactions to deployed weapons (if there were no immediate war) would be sanctions in perpetuity and possibly an American nuclear umbrella over the West’s friends in the region. In such circumstances, what power would Iran acquire as a result of having nukes, other than deterrence?

Finally, it should be noted that Iran’s economy has been floundering, its armed forces out of date. It has minimal stocks of modern air and land weapons and has lost influence in Arab countries as a combined result of sanctions, the turmoil caused by repression after its disputed election in 2009, and the Arab spring. Since the shah’s day, the balance of power has tilted heavily against Iran, especially as the armies of the GCC have become far stronger. Some experts think the air force of the United Arab Emirates alone could take out the entire Iranian one.

Iran’s influence has fluctuated. It is rising in Iraq. Its help is desperately needed by Bashar Assad in Syria. But elsewhere, the “rise of Persia” is a myth.

Sir Richard Dalton

British ambassador to Iran, 2003-06

London

via Letters | The Economist.

Greece & UAE shipping firms help Syria send oil to Iran

Standard

Help for Syria From Some Surprising Sources

(via WSJ) U.S. officials have uncovered an effort by Iran to help Syria mask its oil exports and evade an American and European embargo.

U.S. officials and shipping executives said Iran, through a Dubai-based company, Sea Enterprises Ltd., chartered a Greek-owned tanker, the Mire, to ship more than 91,000 metric tons of crude. The Mire loaded the oil from Nov. 19 to 21 at the Syrian port of Baniyas with the intention of delivering it to Iran’s Ras Bahregan oil terminal, the officials and executives said.

The Treasury Department was able to get the Mire’s insurance and registration pulled after telling company executives that the ship was carrying a product sanctioned by the U.S. and EU.

The Mire, like many international oil tankers, uses American insurance, is registered in Liberia and flies under a Liberian flag. The Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry ordered the Mire’s owners to desist from delivering the oil to Iran, said Scott Bergeron, CEO of the Liberian company. But the owners ignored the order and discharged the shipment in Iran before eventually returning to the United Arab Emirates.

Liberia issued a notice of violation against the Mire’s owner, Eurotankers Inc. of Greece, in accordance with Liberian civil-penalty procedures. The company declined to comment.

Meanwhile…

The bloodshed continues, the Arab League observers are coming to the end of their tour – under the constant barrage of complaints that their observations are not also offering any form of protection. There are reports that the Arab League might consider an extension of the current mission for a further four weeks.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8RZ6XNzpYI]

Debates on Syria’s future continue unabated, but the talk about sending Arab League troops – though they have no operational force, and would need considerably more than the estimated 3,500 troops organized under Syria [oh, the irony] back in 1948 – has quietened down a little. Al Jazeera Arabic’s poll that I posted a link to has been removed. Bassam Haddad writing in the opinion section of Al Jazeera English describes how any external military intervention would destabilise Syria, due to both intended and unintended consequences. Last word on this post surely belongs to former Syria political prisoner, released in November 2011 half way through a 12-year sentence under an al-Assad amnesty [more irony] – the dissident doctor Kamal al-Labwani:

“Time is blood now, not money. It means more victims, torture and destruction of our country.”

 

$4million ransom paid to #Somalia pirates | List of seized vessels

Standard
English: somali pirates at large

Image via Wikipedia

Somali pirates have freed the 18-man crew of a Maltese-flagged chemical tanker after the payment of a $4 million ransom, the maritime editor of the Somalia Report said on Monday.

Andrew Mwangura, an authoritative source on piracy, said the crew – three Turks and 15 Georgians – sailed to the Kenyan port of Mombasa in a tugboat after their release last week, while the tanker, the MV Olib G, was abandoned off the Somali coast.

The Greek-owned and -operated chemical tanker was seized in the Gulf of Aden while on its last trip before the scrapyard, according to Mwangura, a former regional maritime official.

The seas off Somalia have been plagued by piracy in recent years as Somali gangs have exploited 20 years of lawlessness in their Horn of Africa country by seizing vessels and demanding huge ransoms for them and their crews.

Kenya’s military says piracy has become less frequent since it sent forces into neighbouring Somalia last October to fight al Shabaab rebels and stationed its navy off its southern coast.

The empty tanker with its 21 crew was seized south of Salalah port in the Gulf of Oman. The 52,455 dwt Marshall Islands-flagged tanker is managed by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management.
The Olip G merchant vessel was also released this month. It was seized in September 2010 with a crew of 18.

Here are details of ships held by Somali pirates:

  • SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009, in the Gulf of Aden.

The Yemeni-owned ship had six Yemeni crew.

  • ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29, 2010. Roll-on roll-off

vessel captured 10 miles from Aden. Crew of 24.

  • CHOIZIL: Seized on Oct. 26, 2010. South African-owned

yacht hijacked after leaving Dar es Salaam. One crew member was
rescued by an EU anti-piracy task force but two others were
taken ashore as hostages and have not been heard from since.

  • ALBEDO: Seized on Nov. 26, 2010. Malaysian-owned cargo

vessel taken 900 miles off Somalia as it headed for Mombasa from
UAE. Crew of 23 from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.

  • ORNA: Seized on Dec. 20, 2010. The Panama-flagged bulk

cargo vessel, 27,915 dwt, owned by the United Arab Emirates, was
seized 400 miles northeast of the Seychelles. Somali pirates
rescued 19 crew members of the Orna after their hijacked ship
caught fire last June.

  • LIQUID VELVET: Seized on Oct. 31, 2011. The Marshall

Islands-flagged Greek-owned chemical tanker was sailing from
Suez and heading to India when it was seized in the Gulf of
Aden. The 11,599 dwt, owned by the Greek firm Elmira Tankers,
was carrying 22 people on board.

  • ARIDE: Seized November 2011. The fishing vessel was captured 65 miles west of Mahe. The two Seychelles crew are

being held hostage by Somali pirates.

  • ENRList of seized vesselsICO IEVOLI: Seized on Dec. 27, 2011 .

Ship-owner Marnavi said that the 16,631-tonne chemical tanker had been seized by pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arabian sea. The tanker had 18 people on board including six Italians, five Ukranians and seven Indians. The vessel is carrying a cargo of caustic soda and had left the United Arab Emirates bound for the Mediterranean.
Sources:

Laaska News

Reuters

Reuters/Ecoterra International/International

Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre/Lloyds

List/Inquirer.net/www.eunavfor.eu/ here

 

#Iran’s 10-Year Barbie Crackdown [pix]

Standard

While reading Reuters’ story about Iran’s morality police cracking down on the moral peril of Barbie peddlers I remembered this story from November 2009:

“Wearing the traditional Islamic dress, the iconic doll is going undercover, make over for a charity auction in connection with Sotheby’s for Save the Children.

Eliana Lorena is putting Barbie undercover for an auction to celebrate the doll’s 50th anniversary.”

In 2008, Iranian prosecutor Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi warnedthat: “The displays of personalities such as Barbie, Batman, Spiderman and Harry Potter… as well as the irregular importation of unsanctioned computer games and movies are all warning bells to officials in the cultural arena,”  according to a copy of a letter seen by Associated Press. “The irregular importation of such toys, which unfortunately arrive through unofficial sources and smuggling, is destructive culturally and a social danger,” he said.

But the Hejab Barbie story goes back even further.

In 2002, Iran created Barbie and Ken Islamic alternatives Sara and Dara and launched them with the help of the overworked morality police, but (gasp!) they did not sell well.

The addition of a little sister did nothing to redeem the failed project.

In 2003,  Saudi Arabia banned Barbie, saying the doll’s revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools were a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. The following year, United Arab Emirates toy maker Newboy introduced a doll named Fulla, a dark-eyed, more realistically proportioned doll, with “Muslim values”. This one was more successful than Iran’s Sara and Dara, selling over 2 million in the first two years.