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February 12, 2011

Not a promising sign: Iranian warships call in Jeddah

Topics: Iran, Political News and commentaries, Saudi Arabia

Iranian ships visiting a Saudi port? Not very promising, to say the least.

J.E. Dyer writes at Hot Air:

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.

While the Mubarak regime was in power, there was little possibility of Egypt permitting an Iranian naval task force to transit the Suez Canal. I'm not convinced any Egyptian authority will agree to such a transit before the country's political future is sorted out -- I certainly don't think the Iranians know their warships are approaching a Canal that will be opened to them by a specific, expected change in political conditions. But what I do perceive is a bold move by Iran.

The current 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 -- 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.

I believe it's the right thing for Mubarak to go. The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a genuine desire for better government. But regional relationships have already started to shift; the unprecedented port visit is uniquely clear evidence of that. Hezbollah, Iran's client, triumphed in Lebanon in January; the Egyptian unrest has seen the emergence of Hezbollah and Hamas operatives from detention in Egypt and an increase in violence at the border with Gaza. It's not just that the Saudis are running scared. Iran sees opportunity.

Read the entire piece.

As Dyer aptly points out, there's no way that the Saudis would have accepted this visit if they didn't perceive their US-backed position as vulnerable and exposed, the result of Barack Obama's complete mishandling of the Egyptian situation from the day he came into office. Having left the Saudis with the impression that the U.S. president cannot be trusted to protect their strategic interests, especially after that heated phone call, the Saudis are now taking steps to cover their own interests as best they can.

And by the way, if democracy was so important in Egypt to Obama, why wasn't it just as important in Iran when he all but ignored the protesters there being brutalized in the streets while crying out for his support? I hate to ask, but could it be that Iran was already being run by Islamists, which wasn't yet the case in Egypt? After all, one can't help but wonder why the Obama administration and the liberal media has all along supported a role for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ... especially given that well-known liberal/Islamist alliance.

Related video: Is Obama Mishandling Egypt

Posted by Richard at February 12, 2011 11:40 AM

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