[LINK] Three mystery ships are tracked over suspected 'weapons' cargo

Howard Lowndes lannet@lannet.com.au
Thu, 20 Feb 2003 19:18:21 +1100 (EST)

On Thu, 20 Feb 2003, Bernard Robertson-Dunn wrote:

> <brd>
> Whatever else Saddam Hussein is, he is cunning and he is a survivor. And he
> plays by his own rules.
> The military call it asymmetrical warfare
> <http://www.comw.org/rma/fulltext/asymmetric.html>
> </brd>
> Three mystery ships are tracked over suspected 'weapons' cargo
> By Michael Harrison
> 19 February 2003
> The Independent
> http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/story.jsp?story=379623
> Three giant cargo ships are being tracked by US and British intelligence on
> suspicion that they might be carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
> Each with a deadweight of 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes, the ships have been
> sailing around the world's oceans for the past three months while
> maintaining radio silence in clear violation of international maritime law,
> say authoritative shipping industry sources.
> The vessels left port in late November, just a few days after UN weapons
> inspectors led by Hans Blix began their search for the alleged Iraqi
> arsenal on their return to the country.

OK, so why weren't they challenged whilst they were still in the Gulf?
<conspiracy theory>
Wait until they get into open waters, and whilst they maintain radio 
silence then they basically "don't exist".  Now, in mid-ocean it's 
amazing how effective and silent a tactical nuke can be.  I have always 
had my suspicions when the Admiral Belgrano went down so quickly in the 
Falklands War in '82.
</conspiracy theory>

> Uncovering such a deadly cargo on board would give George Bush and Tony
> Blair the much sought-after "smoking gun" needed to justify an attack on
> Saddam Hussein's regime, in the face of massive public opposition to war.
> The ships were chartered by a shipping agent based in Egypt and are flying
> under the flags of three different countries. The continued radio silence
> since they left port, in addition to the captains' failure to provide
> information on their cargoes or their destinations, is a clear breach of
> international maritime laws.
> The vessels are thought to have spent much of their time in the deep waters
> of the Indian Ocean, berthing at sea when they need to collect supplies of
> fuel and food. They have berthed in a handful of Arab countries, including
> Yemen.
> American and British military forces are believed to be reluctant to stop
> and search the vessels for fear that any intervention might result in them
> being scuttled. If they were carrying chemical and biological weapons, or
> fissile nuclear material, and they were to be sunk at sea, the
> environmental damage could be catastrophic.
> Washington and London might also want to orchestrate any raids so that they
> can present the ships as "evidence" that President Saddam is engaged in
> "material breach" of UN resolutions. This could provide the trigger for
> military strikes. While security sources in London last night were unable
> to provide information on any surveillance operation, the movement of the
> three ships is the source of growing concern among maritime and
> intelligence experts.
> A shipping industry source told The Independent: "If Iraq does have weapons
> of mass destruction, then a very large part of its capability could be
> afloat on the high seas right now. These ships have maintained radio
> silence for long periods and, for a considerable time, they have been
> steaming around in ever-decreasing circles."
> The ships are thought to have set sail from a country other than Iraq to
> avoid running the gauntlet of Western naval vessels patrolling the Gulf.
> Defence experts believe that, if they are carrying weapons of mass
> destruction, these could have been smuggled out through Syria or Jordan.

OK, that might answer my interception question.

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