Iranian Warships Having an Outsize Impact
By J. E. Dyer
Egyptian troops protect Sinai gas line to Israel
Security officials say Egyptian soldiers have been deployed to guard a northern Sinai pipeline that carries natural gas to Israel.
The Suez Canal has been told that plans by two Iranian naval ships to cross the waterway were canceled, an official said on Thursday.
It was not immediately clear which side was behind the cancellation, but the Al-Arabiya daily reported that Egyptian authorities had blocked the ships from crossing.
Any naval vessels passing through the canal, a strategic international shipping route that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, must first have approval from Egypt’s foreign and defense ministries, officials said.
If the ships had crossed, it would have been the first time since Iran’s 1979 revolution that Iranian warships had passed through the canal, officials said.
Iran’s revolution poisoned ties with Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel that year.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday called plans for the two Iranian warships to sail through the canal en route to Syria a “provocation”. He had said the ships were expected to pass through the Suez Canal overnight on Wednesday.
Israel’s state-funded Channel One television said Lieberman, a vociferously far-right partner in the conservative coalition, had spoken out of turn as the Defense Ministry “had preferred to ignore” the ships’ approach.
An Egyptian canal official who declined to be named said that Suez Canal Authority was “informed today about the cancellation of two scheduled trips of two Iranian warships,” adding that “no new date was set to cross the Suez as part of the southern convoy coming from the Red Sea.”
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported on Jan. 26 that Iranian navy cadets were going on a year-long training mission into the Red Sea and through Suez to the Mediterranean.