Iran Sets Sail

The Iranian warship Alvand, along with the support ship Kharg, have been trying to pass through the Suez Canal.  This is something Iranian military ships have not done since the 1979 revolution that gave the country its Extreme Ayatollah Makeover.  Passage through the Canal requires the permission of the Egyptian government, so the international community is watching this little nautical adventure closely.  Technically, they’re only supposed to withhold permission if a given ship is considered an immediate threat to other ships in the Canal, but Iran never tried to press the issue with the Mubarak government.

Reports on the current whereabouts of the Alvand and Kharg are somewhat confused.  Iranian state media initially reported the ships had successfully passed through the Canal on Sunday, but today they retracted those statements and said passage was delayed due to “stormy weather off the Syrian and Lebanese coast.”  The Egyptian state news agency says they’ve agreed to allow the passage, which Radio Free Europe and the UK Telegraph report will occur within 48 hours, but Reuters claims they were told the crossing had been cancelled altogether.  It’s like the famous “Schroedinger’s Cat” physics experiment on the high seas.  Iran has the world’s first quantum navy.

What will the Alvand do, if it manages to pass through the Suez Canal and enter the Mediterranean?  Her destination is reportedly Syria, where various Iranian sources have said she will conduct a “training mission,” a “routine visit,” “relaying the message of peace and friendship,” or “deliver cargo.” 

The Alvand class frigate, when fully armed, carries cruise missiles, torpedoes, and both 20mm and 35mm cannons.  That’s a lot of “peace and friendship.”  What kind of cargo would be protected by such heavy firepower?  You don’t suppose they’d be delivering something that would pass through Syria to arrive at some other ultimate destination, like maybe the Gaza strip…? 

You know what else is located on the Mediterranean?  Libya.  Specifically, the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, which have been in the news lately. 

The Israelis have said they will monitor the course of the Alvand if it ever gets through the Suez, but will not confront the ship as long as it stays outside their territorial waters.  Nevertheless, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the Suez passage a “provocation.”

It will be interesting to see where the Iranian navy turns up, if their nautical adventure moves beyond the Red Sea.