Tuesday 8 September 2009

Fact or Fiction? Either is Good.

The episode of the “hijacked” tanker, the Arctic Sea is an intriguing tale. For those who have not been following this story closely, it involves a ship carrying a Russian crew that set sail from Helsinki on 21st July. It is reputed that it was carrying a cargo of timber bound for Algeria. When its anticipated docking date of 4th August came and went without any trace of the ship, the alarm was raised. Checks revealed that its signal disappeared in late July and the last report of a signal from the ship was in the English Channel. This resulted in reports of the first modern-day act of piracy in English waters, or in those of Western Europe.

The Russian government sent forces to search for the ship on 12th August, and found it a few days later off the western coast of Africa. News pictures were flashed around the world showing heavy-handed treatment being dished out to eight “hijackers” who were flown back to Russia handcuffed and lying on their stomachs.

It seems, however, that this may be a concocted story to prevent blushes in the Kremlin. The alternative story is that the Arctic Sea was carrying a shipment of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. These arms are reputed to have been sold by former Russian military officials linked to the Russian underworld. It is alleged that the cargo was loaded in the Russian port of Kaliningrad when the ship was there under repair. But, unbeknown to them, the Israeli secret service, Mossad was on their case and tracking the shipment. Mossad hired a gang of criminals who probably had no idea of the content of the shipment to attack the ship. The plan was simply to create a huge noise around the shipment in order to raise its profile. This would ensure that the ship would be blocked from reaching Iran.

It has been known for some time that Iran is interested in acquiring the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile to help repel a possible Israeli air attack against its nuclear sites. Israel has been in close contact with the Kremlin to try to convince them not to supply Iran with these missiles. It would come as a source of great embarrassment to the Russians that the weapons have fallen into the hands of criminal element s. When news of the “hijack” broke, Moscow was forced to act to save further embarrassment.

It seems to me that the original story is a cover-up. To imagine that a cargo of timber would be the target of sea pirates is inconceivable. The alternative story also appears a little far-fetched albeit not entirely inconceivable in today’s world. Even if it is only true in part, or not true at all, I still like it very much.

The reason why I like it is because it adds to the air of fantasy surrounding Israel’s secret service and its capabilities. The fact that people can manufacture such a story (if it is made up) and publish it in the belief that the public at large will easily believe it means that there is the view that this is the sort of thing that the Mossad could do, and actually does when required. Verified and public stories of Israel’s previous activities bear testament to this view. The daring operation to free the hostages at Entebbe is probably one of the best known stories of these. No doubt there are many others that have remained secret or unconfirmed.

Secretly, I hope that the alternative story is true.

The reports of Benjamin Netanyahu's secret visit to Moscow seem to support the alternative story. I will continue to keep an eye on this story.

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