This BBC report
appears to be good news for Israel at the moment.
Israel publicly objected to an Iranian plan to send warships into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and Egypt announced that those plans had been canceled:
Plans by two Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean have been cancelled, says an Egyptian official.
The unnamed official was reported as saying the plans had been withdrawn, without giving a reason.
He said the ships were near the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah.
Israel had reacted angrily to the plans, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warning that it could not “forever ignore these provocations”
According to CNN’s source
, the Iranians weren’t planning on traversing the Suez Canal anyway:
Iran has not requested to move any of its warships through the Suez Canal, an Egyptian official said Thursday.
“No Iranian warships sailed through the canal in the last two days and nothing is planned for the coming days either,” said Ahmed El-Manakhly, the transit director of the Suez Canal Authority.
“In order for any warship to cross the canal, their government needs to send a request to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through their embassy in Cairo for approval and once approved, the warships can cross the canal. but for now, no official request has been submitted,” he said.
The development came a day after Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said two Iranian warships were expected to pass through the Suez Canal Wednesday night on their way to Syria.
The issue has significant ramifications for Egypt and Israel. Israel withdrew from the Sinai almost thirty years ago, leaving Egypt in total control of the Suez Canal for the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. If Egypt allows Iranian warships to sail towards Israel’s western shore unimpeded the Israelis are, IMHO, prepared and willing to move back into the Sinai and exert their own control over what sails through the canal.
Shipping in the canal is very, very
vulnerable to military action and if Israel does move back into the Sinai you’ll see maritime insurance companies like Lloyd’s canceling policies for shipping in the Suez.
For now, it’s good news that Egypt has either stopped Iran from sailing warships through the Suez, or perhaps Israel convinced them to change their minds.
Personally, I don’t think the Israelis will
permit the ships in the Med. And will probably take action if they show up. I suspect that both Iran and Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries are fearful that the Israelis are
prepared to take action. Unlike the reaction to U.S. bluster these days, the Israelis are truly feared.