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This is a very confusing tale, reminiscent of the dirty bomb that Iran tried to send to Israel. Just like then, the media is being very vague, and just like then, Iran gets away without punishment. From what I understand, Iran had a ship full of munitions headed for either Hamas, Syria or Hezbollah. Egypt let them through the Suez Canal, even after searching them, and then Cyprus was going to let them through their port, but the US stepped in and insisted that Cyprus force them to evacuate the ship. The ship was holding more than 90 containers of “material that could be used to make munitions”, and the UN has confirmed that this in direct violation of resolution 1747. But what is Iran’s punishment? A slap on the wrist and a farewell.

First is the AP report:

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A Cypriot official says a ship suspected of transporting Iranian arms to Gaza is free to leave the island, as its cargo has been unloaded.

Senior Merchant Shipping Department official Andreas Constantinou said Wednesday it’s now up to the owners of the Cyprus-flagged Monchegorsk to decide when and where to go.

The Monchegorsk has been anchored off Limassol for five days. More than 90 containers of what Cypriot officials only described as “material that could be used to make munitions” were unloaded and stored at a naval base.

The government said the ship breached a U.N. ban on Iranian arms exports.

The U.S. military said it found artillery shells and other arms aboard the ship it said was headed for Syria after stopping it last month in the Red Sea.

And then there is this report:

February 19, 2009: Cyprus, was recently assured by UN inspectors that an Iranian ship, being held in Cyprus, was in violation of UN sanctions. Cyprus then unloaded 90 cargo containers of materials used in manufacturing munitions. This all began last month, when a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Aden began following a former Russian merchant ship, the Monchegorsk, that was now flying a Cypriot flag. At first, it was believed that the ship was carrying weapons for Syria, or Hezbollah, or Hamas, or all three.The Monchegorsk was originally spotted leaving an Iranian port, and heading for the Suez canal. Egyptian authorities were alerted and the Monchegorsk was forced into an Egyptian port to be searched before it was allowed to proceed through the canal. Suspicious munitions components, believed headed for Gaza, were found in the cargo. But the Monchegorsk was released because Department of Defense lawyers were uncertain if the materials found were sufficient evidence that Iran was in violation of UN resolution 1747, and, even so, did anyone have the authority to seize anything. But once the ship exited the Suez canal, the U.S. persuaded Cyprus (which, technically, has control over the ship) to seize it when it passed nearby, and do a thorough search.

UN resolution (1747) prohibits Iran from exporting weapons. The exact wording of the resolution is; “Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran. ” The U.S. was apparently using 1747 as a license to mess with Iranian efforts to export weapons to its terrorist customers. […]

Curious how the AP failed to mention the whole back story about Egypt’s involvement and Cyprus’ reluctance to do anything until the US insisted. And according to that second report, the UN itself has admitted that Iran was indeed in violation of the resolution. The AP report would have you believe that it was only according to the US. But don’t get me wrong, that second report also makes no sense. It says that the ship was at first suspected of being shipped to Hamas, Syria, or Hezbollah, but then doesn’t tell us where it was ultimately suspected of going!

I’m going to keep an eye on this one.

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