Iran Hawks Spend Weekend Condemning Planned Iranian Passage of Suez Canal

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 Hudson Institute’s Lee Smith, writing on the Weekly Standard’s blog, opined that the Iranian ships are testing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

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.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. The hypocrisy of Israel objecting to the passage of Iranian warships passing through the Suez canal is almost beyond belief given these two reports from last year:
    US, Israeli warships move to PG: Report
    Sun Jun 20, 2010
    An armada of more than twelve US and Israeli warships has passed through the Suez Canal toward the Red Sea and is reportedly heading to the Persian Gulf.
    Egypt allowed the vessels to pass through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea Friday, UPI reported on Saturday.
    The final destination of the fleet, which also includes an aircraft carrier, is not yet known; but some say it may be heading towards the Persian Gulf.
    Special security measures were implemented by the Egyptian authorities for the safe passage of what is believed to be the largest US armada to pass through the canal in years.
    All commercial and civilian traffic through the Suez Canal was halted and beefed-up security forces were posted along both sides of the waterway.
    The fleet is led by the aircraft carrier, the USS Harry Truman and its strike group of 60 fighter-bombers and 6,000 seamen and marines, DEBKAfile reported from its military sources.
    Report: Israel to deploy nuclear submarines off Iran coast
    Israel is to deploy three submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles in the Persian Gulf, the Sunday Times reported on Sunday… according to the Sunday Times report, this new deployment is meant to ensure a permanent naval presence near the Iranian coastline.
    A flotilla officer told the Times that the deployed submarines were meant to act as a deterrent, gather intelligence and potentially to land Mossad agents.
    The submarines could be used if Iran continues its program to produce a nuclear bomb. “The 1,500km range of the submarines’ cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran,” a navy officer told the Times.
    Last July, defense sources reported that an Israeli submarine had sailed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea last month, describing the unusual maneuver as a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.
    Israel has long kept its three Dolphin-class submarines, which are widely assumed to carry nuclear missiles, away from Suez so as not to expose them to the gaze of Egyptian harbormasters.

  2. I wish you’d get into some factual analysis. Why get so excited about the hyperbolic ravings of the loudest nuts in the bin. Let’s look critically at what likely the Suez canal offers.

    We are able to drive down the road and x-ray vehicles. Don’t you imagine that those tools are used in the SUEZ canal? You know about ship spotters who watch the movement of ships, their destinations and cargo-loads. Yet, you allow all this hyperbole without injecting much realism on what the Suez really means. I guarantee you that the US and ISrael know exactly what that those ships are carrying. That is worth plenty. Actually, I would be extra vigilant in watching land routes, and shipments. There’s nothing furtive about the Suez, you might consider watching for a sleight of hand operation.

    I’m sorry, but the same inanity was invoked regarding the secreting off of Iraq’s WMD. Even though that Highway to Jordan must have been under continuous surveillance by satellite and plane. I’d hope we have road sensors we could drop on a road that would offer tonnage and some composition data. But, to think that we weren’t monitoring the road to Syria is as naive as thinking we are closing monitoring every ship that passes through the Suez.

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