Most of the world wants peace in the Middle East. President Trump has been moving in that direction by normalizing relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors. However, not everyone in the region is in favor of peace. To some nations, war serves a purpose–it distracts from internal problems and can be a unifying force, it stimulates the economy by creating a demand for planes and weapons, and it often will strengthen the leadership position of whoever is in charge of the country fighting the war.
The United States Naval Institute News (USNI) News reported on Wednesday that two Russian Navy ships were seen in the Mediterranean Sea escorting an Iranian-flagged oil tanker to Syria.
The article reports:
Last week, the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Samah entered the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. After a few miles, the 900-foot-long ship stopped reporting its position and destination. Evidence suggests the ship sailed to Syria, escorted by two Russian Navy ships, including a destroyer.
Russia’s role in protecting the shipment may change the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the past, Iranian tankers sailing to Syria have been intercepted by the U.K. Royal Navy. The Russian Navy escort could be viewed as a precautionary step, raising the political and military risks of any intervention by the Royal Navy or others.
Last July, an Iranian tanker destined for Syria, Adrian Darya-1, was seized by U.K. Royal Marines off Gibraltar. The British accused Iran of supplying Syria with oil in contravention of European Union sanctions. Iran quickly seized a British-flagged tanker in a likely retaliatory move. Eventually, in September, Adrian Darya-1 was released by a local court with the assurance that it would not deliver its oil to Syria – but days later, it transshipped its oil in Syrian waters.
The article concludes:
The Russian Navy has hinted it would be more active in escorting merchant ships in the region. After the Iranian delivery, the Russian Navy has publicized an exercise off Syria, meant to protect “smooth passage of civilian ships.” A simulated attack by a submarine was dealt with by Vice Admiral Kulakov, which may be intended to send a message to allies and potential adversaries alike that Russia will actively prevent any interference with the Iranian shipments.
Russia now maintains a permanent squadron in the Mediterranean, based in Tartus, Syria. This includes submarines and large warships. If Moscow decides the Iran-Syria oil run is now a regular mission for the Russian Navy, it’s set to complicate enforcement of international sanctions which could otherwise shut down one of the Syrian regime’s vital lifelines.
Russia has always wanted a ‘warm water port.’ It looks as if they now have one.