Despite indications that the US would attempt to forcefully box the Iranian warships in the Red Sea, first observed here, this strategy, if that was indeed the plan, has failed, and according to Egypt's state-run MENA agency, the Suez crossing for one (very old) Iranian frigate and one (very old) supply ship has commenced. Bloomberg reports: "The ships entered the canal early today after the approval of Egypt’s Defense Ministry, the state-run Middle East News Agency cited Ahmed El Manakhly, head of traffic at the Suez Canal Authority, as saying. The crossing usually takes 10 to 12 hours, El Manakhly said." Israel is, needless to say, unhappy: "Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor today said that Israel would consider the presence of the warships sailing through the canal to the Mediterranean Sea “a provocation” that should be “dealt with by the international community.” Palmor said he was citing previous comments by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman." Yet with tensions already on edge, the possibility that this latest war of words escalates into anything more is quite remote.
The 120-mile (190-kilometer) waterway carries about 2.5 percent of world oil output, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and is a key route for ships carrying Asian consumer goods to Europe. Crude reached its highest level in a week in New York on Feb. 18 as tensions between Iran and Israel over the planned voyage helped to heighten concerns over regional instability. Oil jumped to the highest in more than two years in New York today as Libyan unrest stoked further concern over supplies.
The vessels, the 1,500-ton patrol frigate Alvand and 33,000-ton supply vessel Khark, are the first Iranian warships to use the waterway since the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled Iran’s pro-Western monarchy, according to Press TV. Alvand is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while Khark has a 250-member crew and can carry three helicopters, the Iranian state-run broadcaster said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Feb. 20 that Israel views with “gravity” Iran’s plan to send the vessels through the waterway, a move that he said highlights the need to increase his country’s defense budget. Lieberman said on Feb. 16 that Israel wouldn’t “ignore forever” such acts.
The ships will go to Syria, where they will anchor “for a few days” after a trip through the canal that is “routine according to international law,” Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said cited the country’s ambassador to Syria, Ahmad Mousavi, as saying.
Our only question is whether the USS Enterprise, which as per the last update was on the Red Sea side of the Suez, will follow the two ships into the Mediterranean as a constant reminder that big brother is watching, or stay on the "pirate" side of the waterway.