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September 6, 2009
Shipping News (Updated)
A few weeks ago, rather buried in other news was an odd report of a Russian ship which apparently had been hijacked after picking up “timber “in Finland. Various conflicting accounts of its whereabouts and cargo and the details of the hijacking appeared and I could find no consistent picture of what had occurred though it certainly aroused my suspicions.
Today we have accounts in the overseas press, which might help us figure out what happened. The online friend (Professor Charles Lipson) who alerted me to these stories accurately says:
"This is like something from a Tom Clancy novel, with the Mossad tipping the Russians, who then stopped gun-running former Russian military officers who were selling high-tech anti-aircraft weapons to Iran. Still, there are some obvious lingering questions, particularly whether this really traces back to the Kremlin itself, which might have been using cut-outs, since it is hard to imagine that former officers could get hold of the most advanced anti-aircraft weapons and ship them out of the country in wholesale lots.”
Here are the two reports. I think my friend is right and I wish I were in a position to answer his lingering questions. First, the London Times:
CARGO ship that vanished in the Channel was carrying arms to Iran and was being tracked by Mossad, the Israeli security service, according to sources in both Russia and Israel.Under this version, the missiles were loaded in Kalingrad; and Mossad put together a group of criminals who knew nothing of the real cargo and had them make a fuss about the hijacking so that the Russians were forced to act to retake the ship and thereby stop the weapon flow.
The Arctic Sea, officially carrying a cargo of timber worth £1.3m, disappeared en route from Finland to Algeria on July 24. It was recovered off West Africa on August 17 when eight alleged hijackers were arrested. The Kremlin has consistently denied that the vessel was carrying a secret cargo. It claims the ship was hijacked by criminals who demanded a £1m ransom.
The official version was challenged by sources in Tel Aviv and Moscow who claimed the ship had been loaded with S-300 missiles, Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft weapon, while undergoing repairs in the Russian port of Kaliningrad.
Mossad, which closely monitors arms supplies to Iran, is said to have tipped off the Russian government that the shipment had been sold by former military officers linked to the underworld.
The Jerusalem Post prominently carried the Times story that besides the details of the Times hijacking account also had observed:
in Kaliningrad, former high-ranking Russian military officers impoverished since the fall of the Soviet empire have been said to trade in Russian weaponry clandestinely, without Moscow's approval or knowledge.
The visit of President Shimon Peres to Russia began a day after the ship was rescued. Peres discussed at length the issue of Russian arms sales to Israel's enemies, and a statement issued by his office after the meeting said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised that Russia would not supply arms to Iran or Syria.
A Russian official said the timing of the president's visit to Russia was not coincidental.
"Clearly the Israelis played a role in the whole Arctic Sea saga," a military source is quoted by the Times as saying. "Peres used the incident as a bargaining chip over the issue of arms sales to Arab states, while Israel allowed the Kremlin a way out with its claims to have successfully foiled a piracy incident."
Now, if Hollywood wanted to make money again instead of glorifying jihadis it would produce a film featuring this adventure story about people who risk all every day to keep the thugs from blowing up all that is near and dear to us—the kind of inspiring and exciting work which might actually bring folks to movie houses again.
Larrey Anderson adds:
All kinds of strange things going on with pirates and Russian ships nowadays. This is from New Dehli news reports:
Authorities have confirmed the first case of alleged Pakistani involvement with Somali pirates in a revelation that has raised concerns here about a possible link between piracy and suspected terrorist groups.
On April 28, a Russian warship apprehended 12 Pak nationals — along with Somali pirates — for attempting to attack a tanker off Somalia’s coast.