Alan Note: what will Obama do with Iran and his attitude to the Mullahs when they confirm that this ship was carrying at least one possibly three, NUCLEAR material dirty bombs?
Obama's first foreign policy test is on his desk. Iran loaded a ship for delivery of weapons to Hamas at a time when they thought everyone would be busy - Israel leaving the Strip; the US changing administrations.
Intelligence sources learned of the shipment - we searched for, found, and have now boarded the ship - and promptly find ourselves in a quagmire: Secret compartments with missiles inside - undeclared on the manifest.
We cannot get to the compartments without docking at a bigger port. Iran will not sit quietly. We just placed a news blackout on the incident.
Debka reported on January 20, 2009, that that an "arms-smuggling vessel started its voyage as the Iran-Hedayat and changed its name in mid sea to Famagustus registered to Panama.
The captain was ordered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to unload its cargo at a smugglers cove on the southeastern coast of Sinai opposite the Gulf of Suez, to be picked up by armed Bedouin gangs and moved to El Arish in northern Sinai.
From there the contraband rockets were to be slipped gradually into the Gaza Strip.
"The cargo consists of 50 Fajr rockets whose range is 50-75 km, scores of heavy Grad rockets, new, improved launchers whose angle of fire can be precisely adjusted, tons of high-quality explosives, submachine guns, rifles and pistols and armor-piercing missiles and shells (of types used successfully by Hizballah against Israeli tanks in 2006).
"The shipment, the largest Tehran has ever consigned to the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, includes also a large number of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, equipment for assembling roadside bombs and advanced communications and night vision gear."
The latest update indicates a different name for the ship: Cypriot-flagged Iranian freighter Nochegorsk. And now the plot thickens:
"But the US and Egyptian governments are in a fix. To break the Iranian ship's holds open and expose the rockets destined for Hamas, the facilities of a sizeable port are needed. It would have to be Egyptian because the other coastal nations - Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia - are hostile or controlled by pirates.
Both the US and Egypt are hesitant about precipitating a full-blown armed confrontation with Iran. The timing is wrong for the new Barack Obama administration, which is set on smoothing relations with Tehran through diplomatic engagement. Cairo has just launched a campaign to limit Tehran's aggressive drive in the Middle East but does not want a premature clash.
"DEBKAfile's Iranian sources disclose that the ship's captain had orders not to resist an American boarding team but impede a close look at its freight. The Navy Coast Guard searchers first found a large amount of ordnance and explosives in the ship's hold, which the Iranian captain claimed were necessary for securing Iranian freighters heading from the Red Sea to the Suez Canal.
But then, the US searchers using metal detectors perceived welded steel compartments packed with more hardware concealed at the bottom of the hull.
"The option of towing it to a Persian Gulf port for an intensive search was rejected because the Gulf emirates hosting US bases were almost certain to shy away from involvement in the affair. Moreover, Tehran would be close enough to mount a naval commando operation to scuttle the ship before it was searched."
W caught the Iranians red-handed. Will Obama let them off the hook? Will he place the ship in UN hands? The world is watching to see how he handles it.
Israeli News is joining the discussion.
Naval officers from the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dockship that serves as the headquarters for the taskforce, last week boarded a cargo vessel registered in Limassol and flying a Cypriot flag.
Upon boarding the ship in the Red Sea, the naval officers discovered numerous crates with the inscription “hazardous materials.” The naval officers asked Egyptian authorities to order the Iranian ship to proceed to an Egyptian port for a detailed search before allowing it to travel through the Suez Canal.
According to unconfirmed reports, the navy found armaments. However, the U.S. has not confirmed the media reports.
Ha'Aretz offers a benign assessment: The Cypriot-flagged commercial vessel was tracked by a U.S. Navy ship in the Red Sea over the weekend, one official said. It was boarded and searched with the consent of the vessel's crew on Monday and Tuesday, said another.
World Net proffers the "UN has a rule but no enforcement mechanism" story: The ship is now docked at an Egyptian port on the Red Sea after being escorted by the U.S. Navy out of the Suez Canal, which leads to the Mediterranean, the defense officials said. Due to complicated maritime laws, the U.S. and Egypt may let the ship sail to the Mediterranean, where either Israeli or Egyptian naval units would need to decide whether to entirely halt the vessel.