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US, Israel Warships in Suez May Be Prelude to Faceoff with Iran

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Egypt allowed at least one Israeli and 11 American warships to pass
through the Suez Canal as an Iranian flotilla approaches
Gaza. Egypt closed the canal to protect the ships with thousands of
soldiers, according to the British-based Arabic language newspaper Al
Quds al-Arabi

One day prior to the report
on Saturday, Voice of Israel government radio reported that the
Egyptian government denied an Israeli request not to allow the Iranian
flotilla to use the Suez Canal to reach Gaza, in violation of the
Israeli sea embargo on the Hamas-controlled area.

agreements require Egypt to keep the Suez open even for warships, but
the armada, led by the USS Truman with 5,000 sailors and marines, was
the largest in years. Egypt closed the canal to fishing and other boats
as the armada moved through the strategic passageway that connects the
Red and Mediterranean Seas.

Despite Egypt's reported refusal to
block the canal to Iranian boats, the clearance for the American-Israeli
fleet may be a warning to Iran it may face military opposition if the
Iranian Red Crescent ship continues on course to Gaza.

warships may exercise the right to inspect the Iranian boat for the
illegal transport or weapons. Newsweek reported that Egyptian
authorities could stop the ship for weeks, using technicalities such as
requiring that any official documents be translated from Farsi into

The magazine's website also reported that the Iranian
navy is the weakest part of its armed forces. Tehran has already backed
down from announced intentions to escort the Iranian ships with
"volunteer marines" from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Iranian news site reported, "The move might be in
connection to U.S. self-inflicted embargo against Iran aimed at
inspecting Iran bound ships for suspected goods related to the country's
nuclear program."

Another battle on the high seas may involve one, and
possibly two, Lebanese vessels that are aimed at challenging Israel's
sovereignty over the Gaza coastal waters. Hizbullah, gearing up for a
reaction to a possible clash between the Israeli Navy (pictured) and the
Lebanese boats, has delayed rocket units near Lebanese ports, according
to unofficial military sources.

Israel has warned U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Israel will use force, if necessary,
to stop the boats, one of which is carrying approximately 70 women passengers
and crew organized by Hizbullah support Samar al-Hajj. Her husband is
one of several jailed suspects involved in the assassination for former
Lebanese anti-Syrian Prime Rafik Hariri.

Hizbullah has denied it
is connected with the Lebanese flotilla, but it has been reported that
Al Hajj met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah last month.


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