Ali has an excellent post up about the dangerously provocative Israeli rhetoric surrounding the planned—but now delayed—passage of the Suez Canal by two Iranian naval ships.
But the Israeli side of the story, which bordered on hysterical at times, was picked up by the neoconservative blogosphere in the U.S. and dominated the attention of hawkish blogs over the long holiday weekend.
One highlight was the Emergency Committee for Israel denouncing the Iranian passage in the same breath as condemning the deaths of protesters in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen at the hands of security forces.
In Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen, regime forces have opened fire on protesters. In Syria, thousands have taken to the streets to protest Bashar Assad’s police state. Meanwhile, Hezbollah makes inroads in Lebanon, and Iran is testing the world’s resolve by sending military vessels through the Suez Canal.
The [UN] Security Council’s response? Instead of demanding peaceful reforms from dictatorial regimes, or warning Iran against its provocations, or emphasizing the need for political and social improvement in the Arab world, it is once again attacking Israel.
(It’s unclear what the ECI expected of the Security Council, in regards to Iranian ships passing through the Suez Canal.)
The Iranians are also probing the Egyptian population to see where it stands on resistance—the ships were headed to Syria, another pillar of the resistance bloc lined up against Israel—for in the end the Iranians are testing Cairo’s peace treaty with Jerusalem.
J.E. Dyer admitted, on Commentary’s Contentions blog, that “The ships themselves are hardly impressive: one frigate with old anti-ship missiles and one barely armed replenishment ship,” but that doesn’t slow her down in making some dire warnings.
The important facts are that revolutionary, terror-sponsoring Iran — under U.S., EU, and UN sanctions — feels free to conduct this deployment, and Syria feels free to cooperate in it. Egypt’s interim rulers apparently saw no reason to block the Suez transit, in spite of the Egyptians’ very recent concern over Iranian-backed terrorists and insurgents operating on their territory.
While neocon pundits have been suggesting that Iran’s passage of the Suez Canal is a grave provocation, the fact is this right is guaranteed under the Constantinople Convention, as pointed out by Ali, which states:
The Suez Maritime Canal shall always be free and of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.
Consequently, the High Contracting Parties agree not in any way to interfere with the free use of the Canal, in time of war as in time of peace.
While the passage of two Iranian ships through the canal is worthy of notice, it certainly isn’t worth testing Egypt’s fragile political climate by suggesting that the Egyptian military junta take action to block passage of the canal. An open Suez Canal, and an Egyptian stewardship of the Canal which observes the Constantinople Convention, has far-reaching military and economic benefits for the U.S. and its allies.
Of more immediate importance, however, is the concern that the Iranian ships may take attention away from an increasingly untenable situation for the Iranian government on the streets of Tehran.
Jacob Heilbrunn, blogging at The National Interest, summarized this point in his post, “Israel’s Moronic Foreign Minister,” in which he criticized Avigdor Lieberman for framing the Iranian passage of the Suez Canal as a national emergency.
It’s clear that the mullahs would love to stage a provocation that would allow them to depict Iran as the victim of hostile foreign powers. It’s obvious that the Iranian leadership, in Brechtian fashion, would love to vote in a new population. Instead, the regime’s legitimacy is almost completely spent.
With neocon blogs having spent the weekend working overtime to hype the threat of the Iranian passage, it looks like Lieberman’s ratcheting up of tensions has taken priority over focusing on the resurgent Iranian Green Movement and the massive political shifts occurring in the Middle East.