Iranian battleships arrive for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s Port City of Jeddah on Route to the Gulf of Aden.
DEBKA –The Iranian movement appears to signal a radical reshuffle of the pieces on the region’s checkerboard, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Middle East experts: Up until now, Saudi Arabia, in close conjunction with Egypt and its President Hosni Mubarak, has led the Sunni Arab thrust to contain Iranian expansion – especially in the Persian Gulf.
However, the opening of a Saudi port to Iranian war ships for the first time in the history of their relations points to the Egyptian uprising causing a shift in a new direction – a point Tehran has gladly made against American and Israel silence.
“In pursuit of a powerful (military) presence in the high seas and to consolidate our friendly ties and declare our message of peace and friendship to the regional countries,” said Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, “the flotilla of warships of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy has entered Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah.”.
The Saudis have kept the Iranian warships’ arrival quiet. Even more intriguingly, they held their silence when Iran trumpeted its assumption of the exclusive right to decide which “alien” vessels and forces may be present in or transit the entire Persian Gulf.
Monday, Jan. 31, less than a week before Iranian warships entered Jeddah port, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, said explicitly that the presence of alien forces and warships in the Persian Gulf was “unacceptable” to Tehran. This was closer than Iran had ever come to claiming sovereignty over the entire sea.
He pointed out that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s southern shore extended from the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf to the strategic Strait of Hormuz (through which Gulf oil reaches world markets).
Indeed, Iranian Navy warships were deployed in Persian Gulf waters around the clock “to register the names and other details of foreign ships before permitting their passage,” he added, ignoring altogether the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, the navies of the Gulf states and the British, French, Dutch and German warships cruising in the Persian Gulf.
And if the US thought it calls the shots on Persian Gulf traffic, Tehran advised Washington to think again.
In the past, this sort of talk from Tehran always drew a strong response from Riyadh. Saudi lack of response this time may be due to the illness of King Abdullah, absent from home for two months and recuperating at his palace in Morocco, or possibly the outcome of a Saudi reassessment of the fallout on its own interests from Egypt’s popular uprising against Mubarak.
On another front, Iran has a super-plan to annex Sinai to Gaza for a radical Palestinian state.
Iran ordered proxy Hamas to seize North Sinai using the Egyptian riots for a jailbreak to release the entire Hizballah cell from Cairo prison, which it did last week. The suddenly-freed Hizballah network and its knowledge of the cities on both banks of the Suez Canal, combined with the knowhow of Hamas special units on the loose in Sinai, for achieving six goals:
1. To cut off, even partially, the US military and naval Persian Gulf forces from their main route for supplies and reinforcements;
2. To establish an Iranian military-naval grip on the Suez Canal, through which 40 percent of the world’s maritime freights pass every day:
3. To bring an Iranian military presence close enough to menace the Egyptian heartland of Cairo and the Nile Delta;
4. To thread a contiguous Iranian military-naval line from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and the Gaza Strip and up to the ports of Lebanon, where Hizballah has already seized power and toppled the pro-West government. An Iranian Naval Base Planned in Beirut.
5. In the long term, to sever the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, annex it to the Gaza Strip and establish a large Hamas-ruled Palestinian state with access to the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. A Fatah-led Palestinian state on the West Bank within the American orbit would by comparison be politically and strategically inferior.
6. To tighten the naval and military siege on Israel.