Here’s Why Iran’s Seizure of a Cargo Ship Is So Odd, and Disturbing

So far, nothing terribly unusual. The IRGCN, assigned to patrol the Gulf, routinely sends boats to shadow — some call it “harass” — vessels of other nationalities as they transit the strait. Just three days ago, CNN reported, four IRGCN boats surrounded the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington in the Strait of Hormuz and followed it closely for some time. The U.S. Fifth Fleet subsequently issued a notice to mariners.What happened next to the MV Maersk Tigris, however, was quite out of the ordinary.

The master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters,” said Warren. “He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris. The master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters in the vicinity of Larak Island.” Continue reading

Why You Should Pay Attention to Yemen

Nation by nation, Iran is extending its reach in a bid to rein over the Middle East. If allowed to continue taking control of the world’s strategic chokepoints, Iran can affect the world as it sees fit.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Fars News Agency, citing a spokesman for Yemen’s Revolutionary Forces, reported that “the Yemeni people are deeply interested to establish stronger and very intimate relations with Iran.” According to Fars, the spokesman “reiterated that once the Yemeni people take back power from the Saudi-U.S. pivot, Tehran and Sanaa would certainly develop their ties” (emphasis added).

So, what does Iran expect to gain by establishing a strong presence in Yemen?

Take a look at the accompanying map. Basically, Iran wants Yemen for the same reason it wants Ethiopia, Eritrea and Egypt: to control the Red Sea!

(See full story for map)

Yemen is adjacent to both the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. It sits on the north side of the Bab el-Mandab passageway. Every ship that passes through this passage—and there are thousands every year—would travel within easy range of Islamist missiles stationed in Yemen. Consider the global ramifications: Nearly 30 percent of global oil supplies, more than 2 million barrels per day, pass through the Suez and the Red Sea. Roughly 20,000 ships, an average of 55 per day, pass through the Suez Canal and Red Sea each year. About 15 percent of global maritime trade travels through the Red Sea.

Talk about power and leverage!

Few see it, but ultimately, this is Iran’s grand strategy for endorsing and promoting the Islamification of Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and to a lesser extent, Yemen and Djibouti!

Think about the leverage Iran is gaining. It already effectively controls the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Now, in the 18 months since the Arab Spring touched off the rise of Islamist forces throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Tehran has made enormous strides in gaining influence over the Gulf of Aden, the Bab el-Mandab passageway, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. If Egypt takes control of the Sinai, which appears imminent, Iran will also gain a foothold in the Gulf of Aqaba. It’s startling, when you really think about it, the way Iran is quietly, steadily—without hardly anyone noticing—locking down the Red Sea!

Full article: Why You Should Pay Attention to Yemen (The Trumpet)

With Submarines against Pirates

This is also another reason that the Soviets, Chinese and Germans patrol the open seas and hunt pirates that articles won’t normally mention. The primary goal is not the pirate hunting itself. Aside from “maritime trade” routes, the primary goal can also be territorial claim and control of strategic waterways once you establish a regular patrol routine. Another benefit for these countries is that it’s free training for the military and even weapons testing without having an actual war. The pirates could’ve have been hunted down in their own country or a war between nations would have happened by now should they be an actual threat.

These militarization plans are certainly not a reaction merely to considerations of how to combat more effectively piracy off the coast of Somalia, but to geostrategic considerations as well. For example, last year Volker Perthes, Director of SWP, pointed out that the “interests” behind the countries’ sending their naval vessels to the Horn of Africa are not “limited to the war on piracy.” Perthes explains that, over the past few years, the importance of the Indian Ocean, where piracy is being fought in its western sector, has enormously grown. “One third of the world’s maritime trade” crosses this route, with the trend rising rapidly. Particularly East Asian countries, especially China, are making large infrastructure investments in the bordering countries – port facilities or transportation means -, which are “also elements of the geostrategic competition.” It is, after all, “it goes without saying” that China and even India have “an interest in protecting their maritime links.” Even though the United States “will remain the strongest maritime power in the Indian Ocean, for the foreseeable future,” it will soon “no longer be the sole maritime power.” Perthes warns that “the new momentum in the greater region of the Indian Ocean” should not be neglected and one must also be involved.[6]

Full article: With Submarines against Pirates (German Foreign Policy)