Year-to-date, Somalia-based pirates have attacked more than 90 ships, seized more than 35, and currently hold 17. Some 280 crew members are being held hostage, and two have been killed. Billions of dollars worth of cargo have been seized; millions have been paid in ransom. A multinational naval force has attempted to secure a corridor in the Gulf of Aden, through which 12% of the total volume of seaborne oil passes, and U.S., British and Indian naval ships have engaged the pirates by force. Yet the number of attacks keeps rising.All of this activity has culminated in their capture of a Saudi Arabian oil freighter.
Back in August was another case, albeit a good deal stranger:
On August 21st, 2008, the MV Iran Deyant, 44,458 dead weight bulk carrier was heading towards the Suez Canal. As it was passing the Horn of Africa, about 80 miles southeast of al-Makalla in Yemen, the ship was surrounded by speedboats filled with members of a gang of Somalia pirates who grab suitable commercial ships and hold them,, and their cargos and crews for ransom. The captain was defenseless against the 40 pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades blocking his passage. He had little choice other than to turn his ship over to them. What the pirates were not banking on, however, was that this was no ordinary ship.Granted that there is reason to be skeptical of the report, seeing that Israel--as well as the US--would have the perfect opportunity here to make an issue of Iran's actions in the region in general and their accumulation of nuclear material in particular, yet did not. The whole thing is odd.
...Within a period of three days, those pirates who had boarded the ship and opened the cargo container with its gritty sand-like contents, all developed strange health complications, to include serious skin burns and loss of hair. And within two weeks, sixteen of the pirates subsequently died, either on the ship or on shore.
...Although American intelligence and government sources are maintaining a strictly observed silence, the same does not apply to the Russians and so it is that we learn the real story of the MV Iran Deyanat. She was an enormous floating dirty bomb, intended to detonate after exiting the Suez Canal at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in proximity to the coastal cities of Israel. The entire cargo of radioactive sand, obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore.
But even more odd is the report from the Middle East Online, which reports that the real threat of piracy in the region comes from Israel:
Not only do columnists and analysts openly accuse Israel of sponsoring acts of piracy that multiply off Somali waters, but they also do not hide their fears of an internationalization of security in the Red Sea, where Israel plays a decisive role.These "columnists and analysts" are not identified. Pity. Apparently, according to the article, Israelis are not the actual pirates--merely their sponsors. This is not to say that there have never been Jewish pirates. There were Jews who took up piracy in the 15th century (such as Jean Lafitte), to make a better life for those Jews who were expelled from Spain or to take revenge for the Inquisition.
“What is happening in the Horn of Africa is not a simple case of piracy. These acts of piracy raise various questions about the capabilities and equipment of simple outlaws who are seeking ransoms,” wrote Tuesday (November 25) Nawaf Al-Meshal Sabhan in the Saudi daily Al-Iqtissadia.
“These acts triggered statements on the internationalization of the Red Sea, in which the enemy state of Israel would be a crucial element,” he adds.
The motives for early Moslem pirates were nothing like that. If the Arab countries are really all that interested in investigating piracy in the region, it would be a good idea to look at that history. Three years ago, Joshua E. London wrote an article for National Review Online entitled, "America’s Earliest Terrorists: Lessons from America’s first war against Islamic terror."
The Barbary states, modern-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, are collectively known to the Arab world as the Maghrib (“Land of Sunset”), denoting Islam’s territorial holdings west of Egypt. With the advance of Mohammed’s armies into the Christian Levant in the seventh century, the Mediterranean was slowly transformed into the backwater frontier of the battles between crescent and cross. Battles raged on both land and sea, and religious piracy flourished.
The Maghrib served as a staging ground for Muslim piracy throughout the Mediterranean, and even parts of the Atlantic. America’s struggle with the terror of Muslim piracy from the Barbary states began soon after the 13 colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776, and continued for roughly four decades, finally ending in 1815.
...The Islamic basis for piracy in the Mediterranean was an old doctrine relating to the physical or armed jihad, or struggle.
Of course a crucial difference between the pirates then and now is that back then the Barbary pirates were working off of the principle of jihad. Today, based on the fact that these pirates went after a Saudi ship, it appears that pure greed is the motivation.
Back then, Thomas Jefferson finally took action against the pirates--at a time when Europe was content to pay up. As the problem grows worse today, what action will Obama take?
Obama has been compared to Abraham Lincoln and FDR. Why not add a dash of Jefferson to the mix?
[Hat tip: J.G. Thayer]