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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blue-water bluehelmets

How long will it be before the first call for a UN Navy begin?

Somali pirates struck again yesterday, seizing an Iranian cargo ship holding 30,000 tonnes of grain, as the world’s governments and navies pronounced themselves powerless against this new threat to global trade. Admiral Michael Mullen, the US military chief, pronounced himself stunned by the pirates’ reach after their capture of the supertanker Sirius Star and its $100 million (£70 million) cargo. Commanders from the US Fifth Fleet and from Nato warships in the area said that they would not intervene to retake the vessel. The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, the owner of the ship, condemned the hijacking as an “outrageous act” that required international action.

Note that this is almost surely a false crisis. Numerous national navies have the capacity to deal quickly and easily with a single captured supertanker, however, under so-called "international law", I don't think they have the right to attack a vessel flying a foreign flag. The Saudis have only to offer payment to the French, the British, the Americans, or the Chinese, and the matter could be quickly resolved. One wonders, then, why they are not doing so, and are instead calling for the ever-nebulous "international action".

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