First Published: 2008-11-25

Piracy in the Red Sea: Saudi points towards Israel

Columnists fear that a plan is underway for ‘internationalization’ of security in the Red Sea.


Middle East Online

By Habib Trabelsi – PARIS

The Star Sirius

Not only do columnists and analysts openly accuse Israel of sponsoring acts of piracy that multiply off Somali waters, but they also do not hide their fears of an internationalization of security in the Red Sea, where Israel plays a decisive role.

“What is happening in the Horn of Africa is not a simple case of piracy. These acts of piracy raise various questions about the capabilities and equipment of simple outlaws who are seeking ransoms,” wrote Tuesday (November 25) Nawaf Al-Meshal Sabhan in the Saudi daily Al-Iqtissadia.

“These acts triggered statements on the internationalization of the Red Sea, in which the enemy state of Israel would be a crucial element,” he adds.

“Who has got an interest in such an internationalization?” Asks the analyst, echoing “another disturbing development represented by the decision of a shipping company (AP Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest container ship operator and supply vessel operator) to divert its huge merchant fleet from Suez Canal and take the route via the Cape of Good Hope.”

“Who has got an interest in putting pressure on Egypt, by diverting cargo ships of Suez Canal and by making Egypt lose daily income of over $15 million?” the analysts asks again.

“Who is behind acts of piracy?” Was the headline of the daily Al-Riyadh’s editorialist Dr. Hashem Abdou Hashem.

“These repeated acts of piracy are premeditated. They are sponsored by a State or organization, in any case by a party seeking to create tension, concern and instability in the Red Sea in order to achieve strategic interests,” he wrote.

According to him, “this party seeks to convince the international community to monitor the sea on the pretext of ensuring the safety of navigation, ensuring energy supplies and preventing supplies of arms to troublemakers in the region,” referring particularly to the Islamist militia “Shebab” who control much of Somalia.

Red Sea: "the lung of Arabia"

More explicitly, Jalal Aref wrote Monday in al-Youm that Arab countries bordering the Red Sea “are now faced with four dangers: The internationalization of security in the Red Sea with the pretext of fighting piracy, Israel’s covetousness of seeking to play a key role in the Red Sea, the theft of Arab oil through piracy, without counting the blow to navigation in the Suez Canal.”

The daily Al-Iqtissadiya asked in its editorial Monday “how hackers may have means of air defense, missiles guided by satellites, computers and advanced navigation equipment.”

“This means that some countries close an eye on these acts of piracy for strategic, political and economic reasons,” added the newspaper, pointing out that “the Red Sea is the only waterway in the world where residents are Arab dominant ... and it must remain so.”

Amin Sa'ati, a Saudi expert, demonstrated in a long article published the same newspaper that “the security of Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea are inseparable (...) since 30% of global crude, including the one of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, pass through the Red Sea, the bulk of our desalinated water resources comes from the Red Sea, and our imports and exports pass largely through the Red Sea. "

"The Red Sea is our lung (...). The kingdom must convene a meeting of countries bordering the sea to develop a mechanism for strategic cooperation. But it seems that foreign forces do not want stability in the region. Israel remains the main obstacle to such cooperation,” added the expert.

Besides Saudi Arabia, eight other countries bordering the Red Sea are: Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Israel.

Yemen: mobilize Arabs

Last October, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh called on Arab countries bordering the Red Sea to "assume their responsibility" to remove any pretext for an internationalization of security in the sea.

His appeal came shortly after a decision by NATO to strengthen its military presence in the Indian Ocean against piracy off Somalia, in coordination with the European Union (EU).

Saleh went to Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for that matter. His foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Korbi, had claimed that Riyadh was “conducive to cooperation among Arab countries bordering the Red Sea to ensure the security of the sea.”

Speaking on November 20 in Cairo at a meeting of Arab officials bordering the Red Sea, Korbi said that the multinational naval presence in the southern part of the Red Sea was “a danger to Arab national security.”

Since the diversion of Saudi supertanker, the "Star Sirius" on November 15 by pirates off Somali waters, the Saudi press has been publishing echoes of several Arab journalists and analysts, including Egyptians, who warn against “Israel’s aims for playing a key role in the Red Sea" and against “a US-European control of this strategic sea.”

Israel in Islamists’ line of fire

Israel is also condemned by Islamists on Internet sites which are full of inflammatory articles, including one written by the former Secretary General of Kuwaiti Salafist Movement, Sheikh Hamed Al Ali.

“The aims of the Zionist enemy in the Red Sea have never ceased,” wrote the Islamist cleric on his website, illustrating his long article with a quote by a former commander of the Israeli navy regarding “a diabolical plan” which aims to “transform the Red Sea into a Jewish lake.”

Sheikh al-Ali also lists examples of “the Zionist military engagement in Ethiopia,” particularly "sophisticated aircraft-radars and 60 military Zionists experts.”

That is why Sheikh al-Ali called the mujahideen in Somalia “to eliminate pirates whose irresponsible acts will be exploited by western hackers to the benefit of the diabolical Zionist plan and to abort the Islamic project in Somalia.”

The Shebab, who called piracy an offence to Islam, threatened to attack the pirates if they will not release the "Star Sirius."


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