The US and its allies patrol the seas, looking to stop proliferation of nuclear technology and to enforce sanctions against rogue nations, especially on arms trafficking. In the case of the latter, one of its allies clearly needs a little more work in preventing trafficking — on their own ships:
US troops boarded a German-owned freighter in early October and found eight containers full of ammunition, allegedly headed to Syria from Iran. The shipment is in violation of a UN weapons embargo and has become a source of chagrin in Berlin.
An “embarrassing affair,” is how one German diplomat described it. The official could also have added: potentially damaging to trans-Atlantic relations.
In an operation reported on by SPIEGEL over the weekend, US soldiers entered the freighter Hansa India in the Gulf of Suez at the beginning of October and discovered seven containers full of 7.62 millimeter ammunition suitable for Kalashnikov rifles. An eighth container was full of cartridges suitable for the manufacture of additional rounds. The incident is particularly awkward for Berlin as the Hansa India is registered to the Hamburg-based shipping company Leonhardt & Blumberg.
Investigators suspect that the arms were part of an Iranian shipment bound for either the Syrian army or for Hezbollah, the militant Islamist group. US officials have pointed out that the delivery is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747, which prohibits arms shipments either into or out of Iran.
Not only do international sanctions forbid arms trafficking with Iran, Germany is one of the P5+1 nations that are wrangling over putting tougher sanctions on Iran at the moment. As Cuffy Meigs points out, they’re the +1 added as a sop to their status even though the group originally comprised just the permanent members of the UN Security Council:
As Secretary of State Clinton arrives in Moscow to continue trying to get all the P5+1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — plus Germany) on board with tougher Iranian sanctions, the “+1” gets a big, black eye … Nice to have a trusted UN partner like Germany flouting UN sanctions against Iran … in the midst of trying to secure more UN sanctions against Iran. Ausgezeichnet.
Cuffy also points out that the Syrian army is almost certainly not the intended client. They manufacture their own 7.62 mm cartridges and don’t need to import them. That leaves Hezbollah, and probably a very angry Israel, whose soldiers and civilians would be the intended targets of the ammunition.
What else do German ships transport into and out of Iran? What else have we not caught?