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The Somali Pirates….Another Conspiracy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Before developing into the threat they are today, spreading terror throughout the region’s oceans, these Somali pirates where said to be Israelis or Iranians.

The thoughts and fears of all sides were brought to the surface, as is customary when facing the impossible or the incomprehensible. Yet, it is still incomprehensible as to how mere gangs of possibly illiterate bandits are able to highjack large sophisticated ships in an area teeming with international naval fleets? The answer to this question is divided between those who said that these operations were carried out by Israeli marine commandos, and others who fear that they were carried out by Iranian marine commandos.

The first group is confident in their belief, stating that the Israelis are looking for a pretext for imposing the Israeli navy on the Mandeb Strait (the entrance to the Red Sea between Yemen and Somalia). Some from the onset promoted the idea that the Israelis were the actual pirates under the guise of the Somalis. And what is their reason for this? They claim that the Israelis want to impose their presence and could find no other regional issue allowing them to do so except to offer Israeli assistance in confronting these pirates. However, the architects behind this theory do not realize that Israel, like all the other countries in the region as well as international navies, are permitted to travel in the Southern Red Sea so long as they remain in international waters 15km off the shores of Yemen and Somalia.

There is no need for the Israelis to masquerade as Somali pirates, since their navy has for decades been able to sail across the Mandeb Strait without fear of being fired on by Yemenis or any others.

The Mandeb Strait is considered international waters and not under the sovereignty of any local government, except the Suez Canal which is under full sovereignty of the Egyptian government.

Therefore there is no logical justification for the Israelis to do this for the purpose of securing a military presence in a region which it knows better than its own inhabitants do.

The second group believes that these pirates are nothing more then just an extension of the Iran-sponsored militias in the region, like Hamas and Hezbollah. From the behavior and goals of the pirates they deduce that they are just another front for the regional war with Iran. They say that the capabilities of these pirates are proof of this; since the pirates are not just another poorly-armed gang. They say that the pirates are in possession of early information with regards to navigation route and that they select accurate targets, and were able to undertake operations like professionally trained marine commandos. The pirates board large ships from small boats, then take full control of the ship until they sail it into port.

When they hijacked the Saudi Arabian super-tanker the “Sirius Star”, the pirates took complete control of the ship so quickly that the crew was not even able to make a distress call. This second group sees this as proof that these pirates are more than what they seem, for they were able to hijack a ship equipped with advanced warning systems, a super-tanker that is so large that it takes one hour to traverse its deck on foot. Moreover it took the pirates two days to sail this ship to the Somali coast with the help of advanced guidance and navigation. This is a feat akin to stealing a giraffe from the zoo in broad daylight and smuggling it home without anybody noticing.

Yet why would the Iranians initiate conflict in the open seas where American naval strength prevails, especially since Iran has a weak presence in the Gulf Sea, which is close to their own regional waters?

In our world where conflicts are ongoing and the hiring of armed militias is a reality, these Somali bandits might carry out operations for a power like Iran, Israel, or even the United States of America. However, it is well known that such an act will eventually backfire, since these pirates will eventually bite the hand that feeds them. The establishment or support of these naval militias is a losing battle, especially after the ransom is paid.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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