Egypt: Iran warships won’t pass through Suez Canal
posted at 9:30 am on February 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
This BBC report is good news for Israel at the moment, but it’s not entirely a confidence builder. After Israel publicly objected to an Iranian plan to send warships into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, Egypt announced that those plans had been, er, 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The unnamed official was reported as saying the plans had been withdrawn, without giving a reason.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 particular 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 starts to allow Iranian warships to sail towards Israel’s western shore unimpeded, the Sinai could be a flashpoint for both countries.
For now, it’s good news that Egypt has either stopped Iran from sailing warships through the Suez, or perhaps convinced them to change their minds. It bears close watch, especially as a gauge of intentions from the Egyptian military.