Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, March 31, 2011

China Warns of U.S. Military "Competition"

BBC report China white paper highlights US military 'competition':
China says the United States is increasing its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which is becoming more "volatile".

It also says there has been a rise in operations directed against China.

The views were made in China's National Defence white paper, issued by the government.
"Profound changes are taking shape in the Asia-Pacific strategic landscape. Relevant major powers are increasing their strategic investment," it says.

"International military competition remains fierce."

The document singles out the United States. According to China, it is reinforcing military alliances and getting more involved in regional affairs.

Beijing also says foreigners are now more suspicious of China - and have increased "interference and countering moves" against it.
No issue threatens the relationship more that US support for Taiwan, a self-governing island off China's eastern coast that Beijing considers its own.

"The United States continues to sell weapons to Taiwan, severely impeding Sino-US relations," says the white paper.

Col Geng made it clear that the two countries must respect each other's core interests. For China, that includes Taiwan.

"China is willing to work with the US, based on respect, trust, equality and mutual benefits," he said.
Taiwan. Taiwan. Taiwan.

One man's "renegade province" is another man's "self-governing island" or, as some have it, a free and independent nation.

Of course, Britain itself could be described by the BBC as a "self-governing island."

Somali Pirates: Where you might find them 31 March 11

NATO has mapped out known Somali pirate operating areas (on the major sea lanes, imagine that!) as part of the NATO Shipping Centre Counter Piracy Operation Ocean Shield:
From NATO SC - Match the alert numbers from below to those on the map

A selection of NATO Piracy Alerts reported here:
March 29, 2011
Latitude: 13 30N Longitude: 047 30E
Alert 145 / 2011
At 0612 GMT / 29 Mar 11 / a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 1 skiff position
***This vessel is safe***
March 28, 2011
Latitude: 15 36N Longitude: 057 04E
Alert 144 / 2011
Replaces alert 143
At 0613 UTC / 28 MAR 11/ a merchant vessel was attacked by pirates.
2 skiffs, RPG and small arms used.
***This vessel has been hijacked***
March 27, 2011
Latitude: 15 47N Longitude: 055 45E
Alert 142 / 2011
At 1905 UTC / 27 Mar 11 / a pirate attack group consisting of a Dhow with one skiff was reported in position 15 47N 055 45E course 221, speed 7
March 25, 2011
Latitude: 11 39N Longitude: 065 06E
Alert 140 / 2011
At 1144 GMT / 25 MAR / 2011 / a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 2 skiffs in position.
***This vessel managed to evade hijack***
The PAG is still in the area
March 23, 2011
Latitude: 22 26N Longitude: 063 00E
Alert 139/2011
Reference previous Alert number 138/ 2011.
At 0737 UTC / 23 MAR 11 / a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 1 skiff in position 22 26 N 063 00 E.
***This vessel managed to evade hijack*** The Pirate attack group is still in the area.
March 24, 2011
Latitude: 21 40N Longitude: 063 03E
Alert 133/2011
At 1850 UTC / 24 MAR 11 / pirated FV JIN CHUN TSAI 68, suspected acting as mothership, was reported in position 21 40 N 063 03 E, Course 210: speed 6 knots.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Libya: How are the rebel logistics?

You know the scenario - the government troops fall back and consolidate, the rebels rush helter skelter after them along a long highway. How far can the rebel forces pursue before they run into a logistics problem? Food, shelter, ammo, petrol - where will these things come from to support a rebel "army" in the field.

Who is planning for rebel logistics and force sustainment?

See BBC News - Libya: Rebels pushed back by Col Gaddafi's forces:
US President Barack Obama earlier said he did not rule out arming the rebels.

France and the US say they are sending envoys to the rebel-held city of Benghazi in the east to liaise with the interim administration there.
And see also Arming Libya rebels not allowed by UN resolutions, legal experts warn US:
The US is likely to be in breach of the UN security council's arms embargo on Libya if it sends weapons to the rebels, experts in international law have warned.

After Hillary Clinton said it would be legal to send arms to support the uprising, lawyers analysing the terms of the UN's 26 February arms embargo said it would require a change in the terms for it not to breach international law.

"The embargo appears to cover everybody in the conflict which means you can't supply arms to rebels," said Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London.

His view was backed by other experts in international law who said they could not see how the US could legally justify sending arms into Libya under the current resolutions.
Lord knows we wouldn't like to run afoul of UN resolutions.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Somali Pirates: Spanish Navy Bags 11 Suspected Pirates

Reported here:
The Spanish navy Tuesday arrested 11 suspected Somali pirates who had chased a Seychelles-registered fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean, the Spanish defence ministry saud.

The 11 suspects remain aboard the Spanish frigate "Canarias" pending a decision by authorities in the Seychelles, it
Spanish Frigate ESPS Canarias

said in a statement.

The Spanish naval operations centre (COVAM) was alerted by the fishing vessel that it was being pursued by pirates aboard two boats -- a skiff and a whaler -- in the early hours of Tuesday.

Crew on the boat, which included several Spaniards, at the same time fired warning shots to dissuade the pirates.

COVAM contacted the "Canarias", which is part of the European Union's Atalante anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean, and a helicopter from the frigate went to intercept the pirates, the statement said.

"The 'Canarias' managed to capture the skiff with eight suspected pirates on board and found no weapons or material related to piracy, and soon afterwards intercepted the whaler, which had three suspects on board."

US Navy in Japan: Humanitarian Aid Delivered by Air

Hat tip to: The PJ Tatler - Video: US Navy pilots surprise Japanese with food and water.

Minor correction. The pilots are the guys who are inside the the cockpit and driving the aircraft. The aircrew are the people who are carrying the supplies from the helicopter to the people waiting on the ground. Now, as the father of a Navy helicopter pilot, I love the helo pilots, but give "the guys in back" a big hand here.

And to PJ Tatler - thanks for noticing.

Somali Pirates: Iran's Boasts

I'm sure the Iranian navy is doing mostly valiant things in protecting Iranian shipping from Somali pirates, but the official Iranian media needs to ratchet down its enthusiasm a couple of notches.

For example, this release from Fars News Agency, Somali Pirates' Attack Repelled by Iranian Navy:
The Iranian Navy's fleet of warships dispatched to the Gulf of Aden fought back a group of somali pirates who intended to hijack two Iranian trade vessels.

The VALHLH ship was attacked by three pirate boats in the Suez Canal, but was saved thanks to the timely measure taken by the Iranian Navy warships and continued on its way to Bandar Abbas without suffering any loss or dely.

In another incident pirates attacked an Iranian commercial ship, Nabi, with four speedboats but were forced to retreat because of the heavy fire of the Iranian Navy's special operation team.

Nabi had departed Kharg Island for Port of Ain Sukhna (Sokhna) in Egypt.

The Iranian Navy's 13th fleet of warships, comprised of Tonb and Delvar vessels, was deployed to the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden in 2011 in a bid to guard Iranian merchant containers and oil-tankers. (emphasis added)
Taking everything else as true (for the purposes of this post), I suspect that the highlighted alleged attack in the "Suez Canal" probably took place in the the Red Sea or near the entrance to the Red Sea or somewhere else instead of in the canal itself. Probably just an overeager Iranian PAO.

If it occurred where the Iranians say it did, that would be big new. Much bigger than a press release from Fars.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Somali Pirates: Disable pirate "motherships?"

From American Shipper:
With frustration over Somalia piracy increasing, shipping executives are discussing whether naval forces should disable vessels as they are hijacked to prevent them from being used as “mother ships” from which attacks can be launched further offshore.
“One idea is to use floating nets to disable the propeller because that way you can easily recover the vessel as soon as the pirates are off the ship,” said Spyros Polemis, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, speaking at Shipping 2011, the annual conference of the Connecticut Maritime Association. “They have other thoughts, but I can not disclose everything.”
But some voices cautioned against the tactic.***
Read the whole thing. One of the major concerns in dealing with the pirates in the past has been not provoking them into doing more harm to the captive crews than they already do.

If they are holding a ship and its crew, disabling the ship may cause the pirates to toss a few bodies over the side of the ship until the ship is freed or their safe passage is guaranteed. From the article:
While there is a risk that pirates may harm crews if ships are disabled, Polemis said it would be “really against their own interest. Because if the warship is nearby, and they can see the warship, and the warship disables the vessel, what is the pirate going to do? If they are going to harm the crew, then the Navy is going to go on board the ship and kill the pirates. They are risking their own lives I think the likelihood is they will go aboard their boats and leave.”

The counter-argument to that is that when harm is done to a crew, there must be a price paid by the pirates or else they have little incentive to be relatively civilized.

One way to disable pirate small boats

Somali Pirates: Hijack a Ship 28 Mar 11

From NATO Shipping Centre: SOMALIA PIRACY UPDATE 28 MARCH 2011:
March 28, 2011
Latitude: 15 36N Longitude: 057 04E
Alert Number 144 / 2011
Replaces alert 143
At 0613 UTC / 28 MAR 11/ a merchant vessel was attack by pirates.
2 skiffs, RPG and small arms used.
***This vessel has been hijacked***
Early reports indicate the vessel as a tanker, Zirku, UAE registry.

Ship photo from Shipspotting.com by J J Fernandez and used iaw terms of that site.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Somali Pirates: Indian Forces Stop Pirate Attack, Destroy "Mother Ship" and Captures 16 Pirates

Reported here:
The Indian Navy has foiled an attack by Somali pirates on a merchant ship, west of the Lakshadweep Islands, by apprehending 16 Somali pirates. They also rescued 16 hostages in the process.

Maersk Kensington
"The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) alerted the ships patrolling off the Lakshadweep of a distress message received from merchant ship MV Maersk Kensington at about 11:00 am yesterday and foiled the attack," Defence spokesperson captain M Nambiar said.

Of the 16 rescued hostages (crew members), 12 were Iranians and four were Pakistanis.
More here:
Indian Navy TU-142
'A TU-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft on patrol located the suspected pirate vessel and facilitated the INS Suvarna, on patrol in the area, to intercept the pirate vessel. Coast Guard Ship ICGS Sangram, also on patrol, was diverted for the operations,' he added.

FV Morteza (NATO photo)
The pirate vessel was identified as Morteza, an Iranian trawler hijacked by the pirates and being used as the mother vessel for piracy operations.

INS Suvarna asked the vessel to stop but the warnings went unheeded and the pirates instead opened fire.

INS Suvarna (offshore patrol vessl) (Indian Navy)
'The pirate vessel Morteza opened fire on the naval ship. INS Suvarna then engaged the pirate vessel in self-defence, resulting in Morteza catching fire due to the fuel drums. The pirates and hostages jumped overboard,' the official said.

INS Suvarna quickly recovered the hostages and also launched a liferaft for the pirates. ICGS Sangram also joined the rescue operations.

ICGS Sangram
'There were 16 Somali pirates and 16 hostages (crew members) of which 12 are Iranians and four Pakistanis,' the official said
UPDATE: What is this, the 3rd or 4th time the Indian's rules of engagement have resulted in the loss of a pirate mother ship, several pirates and the freeing of a number of hostages?


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Somali Pirates: Weather-Activity Prediction for 24 Mar- 30 Mar 2011

From the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence Piracy Analysis and Weekly Warning Report (pdf), a look at the upcoming weather in the the favorite pirate threat areas:

Red is bad, green is good and the rest, well, it's a scale.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daily Somali Piracy Overview from the NATO Shipping Centre

From the fine folks at the NATO Shipping Centre (or Center) - Daily Somali Piracy Overview:
FS Montesa/Monteza
There’s continuing high piracy activity in the Arabian Sea, with two attacks and several approaches/ suspicious activities reported this week, It is assessed that these are probably conducted by dhow based and FV PAGs. Two fishing vessels used as mother ships (FS JIH CHUN TSAI 68 and FS MONTESA/MORTEZA) are also active in this area. The piracy activity is also increasing in Somali Basin. During the past weeks, several whaler based PAGs where reported missing along the shore indicating a possible upcoming increase of pirate activity in the southern Somali Basin as well as off the coast of Kenya, Tanzania and towards the Mozambique Cannel. The weather forecast further supports increased activity as the monsoon transition period seems to finally have settled. In the Gulf of Aden weather condition for the next 24 hours are also favourable for small boat activities and pirates attacks in this area are likely.

Somali Pirates: U.S. Navy Disrupts Pirate Attempt In Arabian Sea

U.S. Navy Disrupts Pirate Attempt In Arabian Sea:
U.S. Naval forces disrupted a pirate attack on M/V Falcon Trader II, a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, after it reported it had been attacked by pirates March 24.

All 20 Filipino crew members of the Falcon Trader II are safe and in control of the vessel.

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopters from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48 embarked aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and a rigid-hull inflatable boat from Leyte Gulf monitor the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel M/V Falcon Trader II, which had sent out a distress call reporting it had been boarded by pirates. Helicopters from the Leyte Gulf and USS Enterprise (CVN 65) responded to the call and were able to disrupt the attack.  (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Guerra/Released)
At approximately 10:30 a.m. (local), aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), conducting operations supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, responded to a distress call from the M/V Falcon Trader II reporting that suspected pirates in a small skiff were attempting to board the vessel.

In a second report from the crew of Falcon Trader II, they stated there were pirates aboard and that all 20 crew members were safe and had locked themselves into a safe room, also known as a 'citadel'. The citadel is a secure room with food, water, communication and control over the vessel's steering and propulsion.

A SH-60F helicopter assigned to the "Dragonslayers" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 11 from the Enterprise and a SH-60B helicopter assigned to the "Vipers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48 from the Leyte Gulf were sent to investigate the situation.
Sailors man a dual-mounted M-60 machine gun aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) as an SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters from Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 11 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48 embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and Leyte Gulf hover near the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel M/V Falcon Trader II after a distress call reported it had been boarded by pirates. (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Guerra/Released)

Once on scene, the HS-11 helicopter fired warning shots to dissuade the pirates from continuing their attack. Following this, two pirates were witnessed jumping off the bow of the M/V Falcon Trader II and the pirates' skiff fled the area, pursued by HS-11's helicopter.

As the pirate's skiff was attempting to rendezvous with a larger vessel suspected to be acting as a 'mother ship', the pirates shot at the helicopter with small arms. The helicopter and its crew were not harmed and returned to continue conducting reconnaissance of the scene.

"We could definitely see the muzzle flashes from their AK-47s, but we weren't hit," said Lt. Joshua A. Overn, a pilot aboard the helicopter. "The anti-piracy training we had received kicked in, and everyone conducted themselves with poise and professionalism."

With no confirmation that all the pirates had left the vessel, a Leyte Gulf crewmember fluent in the Filipino language, Tagalog, remained in contact with the Falcon Trader's crew in the citadel and monitored the vessel overnight. The following morning, after observing no suspicious activity, Leyte Gulf's visit, board, search and seizure team boarded and secured the vessel. Confirming no pirates remained aboard, they notified the crew that it was safe to come out of the citadel.
Sailors on the USS Leyte Gulf get ready for boarding (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Guerra/Released)

"It says a great deal about the inherent flexibility and capability of the Enterprise Strike Group that we were able to conduct counter-piracy operations while simultaneously flying Operation Enduring Freedom missions and coordinating air defense of the region," said Capt. Eugene Black, commanding officer of Leyte Gulf.

U.S. forces continue to monitor the suspected pirate mother ship. Pirates are known to keep hostages onboard mother ships to prevent counter-piracy forces from acting directly against them.

"This is a great example of the teamwork inherent in a Carrier Strike Group," said Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, commander of Enterprise Strike Group. "We were lucky to be on scene when the attack occurred, and everyone did their jobs well."
BZ to all involved!

Somali Pirates: Aussie Navy Takes Ou t Pirate Skiff

Royal Australian Navy frigate shoots up a pirate skiff as reported here:
RAN photo
Just after 6:30 pm on Mar. 22, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) warship HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), assigned to CMF’s counter-piracy mission Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, badly damaged a skiff, successfully disrupting the activities of a group suspected of being involved in acts of attempted piracy.

Stuart was scanning the Arabian Sea for suspicious activity when the Bulk Cargo Carrier MV Sinar Kudus, pirated on Mar.16 and known to be acting as a mother ship to launch attacks on other vessels, was seen 230 nautical miles south east of Salalah, Oman. The ship was towing an unmanned small skiff, commonly used by pirates to launch their attacks. Stuart was directed to intercept the MV Sinar Kudus and after monitoring the vessel, launched an operation to put the skiff out of action using sustained fire from the ship’s Mini-Typhoon machine gun. No fire was directed against the MV Sinar Kudas.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Revisited: The Drumbeat of "Humanitarian Intervention?"

Back in January 2009, I posted the following - which I now feel is appropriate to raise again in light of the attacks on Libya: The Drumbeat of "Humanitarian Intervention?"

With the arrival of a new U.S. president, the drumbeat of wars of self-protection seems to be dying out while a familiar old tune arises - suggesting the probable return to "humanitarian interventions." See here:

Regarding the "ongoing genocide" in Darfur, Sudan, Rice said the U.S. priority for the moment is reinforcing a U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission to protect civilians. She expressed concern that Sudan's government may retaliate against international peacekeepers and aid workers if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant on genocide charges for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

These should not be confused with "humanitarian operations." Humanitarian operations are approved by countries affected by some disaster or another, such as the aid rendered to the victims of the tsunami of December 2004 or other efforts to assist areas impacted by storms or earthquakes. In such cases, military forces may end up working with non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross or transnational entities like the UN and its disaster contractors. In such cases, the role of the military is usually logistical support.

By contrast, in a "humanitarian intervention" armed force is used directly to intervene in a sovereign nation's affairs even against the will of the sovereign of the invaded or attacked nation.

In the last decade of the 20th Century such "invasions to save lives" include Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and Sierra Leone. In the world of the people who support such interventions, the U.S. led invasion of Iraq was not a humanitarian intervention because. . . well, because. In fact, Human Rights Watch asserted that the saving of thousands of Iraqis from Saddam's terror "gives humanitarian intervention a bad name."

Humanitarian intervention seems to be deemed appropriate when enforcing a "responsibility to protect." This new found responsibility is a code phrase for allowing older concepts like sovereignty to be discarded for some theoretical higher "right." This "responsibility to protect" is spelled out in a document authored by the somewhat Orwellian-named entity - the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). You can find the document here:

This report is about the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention”: the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive – and in particular military – action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state.

Of course, having posed the difficult question, the report goes on to justify such interventions:

(1) Basic Principles
A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the
protection of its people lies with the state itself.
B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.

As you might gather, these principles don't seem to be evenly applied, While the Balkans intervention was okay, no one seems to argue that it would have been okay to invade - on humanitarian grounds- China during the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". For those of you unfamiliar with that time period:

Millions of people in China reportedly had their human rights annulled during the Cultural Revolution. Millions more were also forcibly displaced. During the Cultural Revolution, young people from the cities were forcibly moved to the countryside, where they were forced to abandon all forms of standard education in place of the propaganda teachings of the Communist Party of China.
Estimates of the death toll, civilians and Red Guards, from various Western and Eastern sources are about 500,000 in the true years of chaos of 1966—1969. Some people were not able to stand the cruel tortures, they lost hope for the future, and simply committed suicide.


Kofi Anin, former Secretary General of the UN discussed the changing view of sovereign rights here:

State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined—not least by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual sovereignty—by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties—has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. When we read the charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them.

In recent years, the many people of a liberal persuasion suggested that it would have been perfectly appropriate to engage in an armed invasion of Myanmar/Burma on humanitarian grounds following the devastating typhoon of May 2008. Time offered up Is it time to invade Burma? by Romesh Ratnesar:

. . .The trouble is that the Burmese haven't shown the ability or willingness to deploy the kind of assets needed to deal with a calamity of this scale — and the longer Burma resists offers of help, the more likely it is that the disaster will devolve beyond anyone's control. "We're in 2008, not 1908," says Jan Egeland, the former U.N. emergency relief coordinator. "A lot is at stake here. If we let them get away with murder we may set a very dangerous precedent."

That's why it's time to consider a more serious option: invading Burma. Some observers, including former USAID director Andrew Natsios, have called on the U.S. to unilaterally begin air drops to the Burmese people regardless of what the junta says. The Bush Administration has so far rejected the idea — "I can't imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday — but it's not without precedent: as Natsios pointed out to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid without the host government's consent in places like Bosnia and Sudan.

A coercive humanitarian intervention would be complicated and costly. During the 2004 tsunami, some 24 U.S. ships and 16,000 troops were deployed in countries across the region; the mission cost the U.S. $5 million a day. Ultimately, the U.S. pledged nearly $900 million to tsunami relief. (By contrast, it has offered just $3.25 million to Burma.) But the risks would be greater this time: the Burmese government's xenophobia and insecurity make them prone to view U.S. troops — or worse, foreign relief workers — as hostile forces. (Remember Black Hawk Down?) Even if the U.S. and its allies made clear that their actions were strictly for humanitarian purposes, it's unlikely the junta would believe them. "You have to think it through — do you want to secure an area of the country by military force? What kinds of potential security risks would that create?" says Egelend. "I can't imagine any humanitarian organization wanting to shoot their way in with food."

Mr. Egeland seems to lack the imagination that others possess.

Once deemed a virtually dead concept- "so 1990s" - the "selfless" use of power seems to be making a comeback. Kenneth Roth wrote in a 2004 article in Harvard International Review:

The use of military force across borders to stop mass killing was seen as a luxury of an era in which national security concerns among the major powers were less pressing and problems of human security could come to the fore. Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and Sierra Leone: these interventions, justified to varying degrees in humanitarian terms, were dismissed as products of an unusual interlude between the tensions of the Cold War and the new threat of terrorism. The events of September 11, 2001, supposedly changed all that by inducing a return to more immediate security challenges. Yet surprisingly, even with the campaign against terrorism in full swing, the past year has seen four military interventions that their instigators describe, in whole or in part, as humanitarian.

The tsunami aid rendered counts as a humanitarian intervention, according to Mr. Roth, but the invasion of Iraq does not, "Since the Iraq war was not mainly about saving the Iraqi people from mass slaughter..."

Selecting places in which humanitarian intervention are acceptable is tough work. However, if one begins with the premise that the intervening nations have nothing to gain by such intervention then justification seems to come easier to some minds. Intervening in Iraq = "bad" because it has oil. Intervening in Myanmar ="good" because it has nothing of use to the world. Go figure.

That a forced entry for "humanitarian" reasons might result in armed resistance by the ruling forces of the invaded land or by bands of clan-based groups(as in Somalia in the 1990s) and the deaths of soldiers of the invading forces seems not to bother the pro-humanitarian interventionists much, if at all.

Will they be keeping "body count" lists of those who fall? I wonder.

Back in July 2008, there was a debate of sorts on humanitarian intervention (HI) in the pages of the Los Angeles Times. Excerpts from here, the debate bearing the title "Why not invade Darfur?" From the "anti" HI side:

By the traditional standards of international law, which require state consent and conforming state practice for a customary law norm to emerge, the duty to protect remains much more of an aspiration than a law. It is difficult to understand why the protection of a foreign population should merit greater presumed legitimacy than the protection of one's own population, which underlies all national-interest-driven uses of force, including preemptive ones. After all, fair-minded critics of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars would agree that the Bush administration undertook these interventions to protect the security of the American people.

Notwithstanding the legal and moral hypocrisy associated with humanitarian interventions, there are, of course, instances in which humanitarian intervention is appropriate. There is no shortage of misery in today's world, including genocide, ethnic cleansing and rampant war crimes, poverty and starvation. Alleviating at least the worst cases is a worthy project.

Yet, international humanitarian interventions, whatever their moral appeal, have to be judged by the same hardheaded standards as traditional national-interest-driven interventions. How compelling is the humanitarian problem in a particular place compared with other places? Are the equities clear-cut or are all the sides of a conflict equally unsavory? How does one define success? Is regime change the objective? What are the likely costs of a successful intervention? How many casualties and how much collateral damage should be anticipated? Are sufficient military resources available? The important thing is not to become entangled in a halfhearted, indecisive mission with unclear or excessively soft rules of engagement, as was the case with the Clinton administration's deployment of U.S. forces to Somalia. Such interventions produce no good results. War is too serious of a business to be play-acting, and there is no substitute for victory, something those -- in Europe and elsewhere -- who call the loudest for humanitarian interventions should keep in mind.

From the "pro" HI side:

I would argue that we have as much of a strategic interest and moral duty to stop the genocide in Darfur as we did to stop the rule of Saddam Hussein. Morally, it is clear: Hundreds of thousands of people have been slaughtered in Darfur. We should stop this massacre if we can. Strategically, it is not as direct. That region of Africa does not impact our immediate national security interests -- which is why intervention there is not popular. Indeed, intervention in Africa is rarely considered in even the worst of situations.

Would the interests of developed nations not be served by a stable, democratic Africa as much as they would be by a stable and democratic Middle East? Are dictators such as Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir and Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, less dangerous than Hussein? David, you and many conservatives spent so much time demonizing Hussein that other threats started to pale in comparison. You seem to have said he was worse than Hitler or Stalin, for example, telling one interviewer in April 2003 in an effort to justify the invasion: "Despite the quite deplorable record amassed by people like Hitler or Stalin, I am not aware of instances where they have targeted their own civilians."

But do we have the resources to intervene? This is where we differ again, David. Your choices (Iraq, perhaps Iran) mean that almost all our military would be engaged in these battles, or what you call "the provider of security services" to the world.

Another question that almost always remains unanswered in suggesting the need for humanitarian interventions is which nations have the airlift and sealift capacity to conduct such operations and sustain forces in the field. Once again, good-hearted amateurs discuss tactics without bothering about logistics. In posts following the Christmas tsunami, I hit on the former UNer Mr. Egeland (see here and here)for his "magic happens" wish lists in humanitarian operations. And I've been to planning meeting at which, when the issue of logistics is raised, every eyeball turns to the U.S. representatives.

As usual in military matters, the self-interest of the country which is contemplating involvement ought to serve as a guide to any combat operation whether it is couched in terms of "humanitarian" or not. Asking American soldiers and sailors to risk death and spending the national treasure and limited military equipment on operations that do not serve the interests of the nation must be carefully considered before falling victim to some internationalist standard of a "responsibility to protect."

Initial thoughts. more to follow.

Photo Credit:
Displaced children in South Darfur near the town of Nyala. [Photo archive UN/Evan Schneider]
Well, the time has come for more thoughts. You might enjoy reading this piece on A War We Don't Need: Why is America intervening in a Libyan civil war?:
Contrary to pithy bumper-sticker truisms, war is occasionally the answer. But can anyone explain why it's the answer now? At the moment, at least, polls insist that Americans are generally supportive of the United States' intervening in the civil war now raging in Libya, so someone must have an ironclad case.

President Barack Obama pins his rationale for intervention on a "humanitarian threat." A noble cause, no doubt. It's too bad that the folks in old Darfur missed out on those laser-guided missiles American and French fighter jets deploy to help avert massacre and man-made hunger. Maybe the victims didn't say please. Maybe the city dwellers of Pyongyang will be more convincing.
. Or Ben Stein's One World Government Obama:
Look at it this way: Where did Mr. Obama get the authority to commit United States forces to war in Libya? There was no declaration of war. There was no authorizing resolution by Congress allowing money to be spent on a war against Col. Gaddafi. As far as I know, there was no meeting of Mr. Obama and top leaders of Congress to discuss the subject in even rough form, let alone detail. There was no lengthy buildup in which the Congress was "allowed" to express the people's opinion on whether we want to be in a third concurrent war.

There was just a vote by the United Nations Security Council, a very far from unanimous vote, and suddenly, the President's Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, solemnly announced that we were at war.

But, when did we amend the Constitution to declare that the United Nations had control over our military? When did we abolish the part of the Constitution that said Congress had the right to declare war? Now, I well know that in recent postwar conflicts, we don't have declarations of war. But we have Congressional debates. We have funding votes. We have a sense of the Congress or some kind of resolution.
So far no American servicemen or women have lost their lives in this "humanitarian intervention." If that changes, there should be a whole lot of questions about their sacrifice in an intervention in a civil war of another nation.You know, like all those who questioned our participation in the Vietnam "civil war."

A non-military intervention air strike? (Reuters photo)
UPDATE: Speaking of whom, how about old Senator (anti-war activist and Vietnam vet) John F. Kerry? Well, hurrmph hurrmph, "This is no intervention," he has declared. On Face the Nation (which face did he use?), Mr. Kerry stated:
"The last thing we want to think about is any kind of military intervention. And I don't consider the no-fly zone stepping over that line," Kerry said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday."
Of course he wouldn't. {end update}

Oh, and the fact that the "coalition" is falling apart? Cobbled together by people who have never operated in a coalition environment, I guess, because it was predictable (and predicted) by those of us who have. Why the splits? No common purpose and a total lack of leadership. I hope Europe is ready for the fallout.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Global Missile Defense: "More important than ever"

U.S. Defense Department report Official Outlines Global Missile Defense Strategy:
U.S. efforts to build effective missile defenses are more important than ever for defending the nation and its deployed forces and for cooperating with allies and partners, a senior defense policy official said today.

James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told attendees at a missile defense conference here that the nation’s missile defense efforts, while focused on a few emerging threats, also span the globe.

“We continue to focus on Iran and North Korea as particular threats to us and our allies,” Miller said.

Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, he said, and is working to develop salvo-launch and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.

North Korea, despite the “urgent humanitarian needs of its destitute population,” is likewise modernizing its missile arsenal, Miller said. North Korea’s inventory already includes “a substantial number of mobile ballistic missiles that could strike targets in South Korea, Japan, and U.S. bases in the Pacific,” he added.

Both nations’ nuclear potential increases U.S. strategic concerns about missile defense, Miller said, and other nations and nonstate actors also pose a significant threat.

USS Hopper
The United States adopted a phased, adaptive approach to European ballistic missile defense in 2009 to deter and defend against “the development, acquisition, deployment and use of ballistic missiles by regional adversaries,” he said. The strategy relies heavily on systems that can be relocated, allowing the United States and its allies to adjust to a complex and changing threat environment, he explained. The approach will bring together sea-, land- and space-based systems in four phases of deployment through 2020, Miller said.

“Technological advances or future changes in the threats could modify the … timing of the later phases,” he said. “That’s one reason the approach is called adaptive.”

NATO endorsed the phased, adaptive approach and agreed to make current and future missile defense systems interoperable across NATO, he said.

Looking beyond Europe, U.S. strategy is to apply the phased, adaptive missile defense approach in other regions, particularly in East Asia and the Middle East, he said.

In Asia, the United States is partnered with key allies including Japan, Australia and South Korea to enhance missile defense, he said. Japan now has a layered ballistic missile defense capability that includes U.S. tracking systems, interceptors, early warning radars and a command-and-control structure that integrates those technologies, Miller said.

“We regularly train together, and have successfully executed simulated cooperative [ballistic missile defense] operations,” he said. “We’re also engaged in cooperative development of the next-generation … interceptor, which is projected to enter service in 2018.”

China obviously is a key component of security strategy in the Pacific, Miller said.

“The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater global role in supporting international rules, norms of responsible behavior and institutions,” he said. At the same time, he said, the United States and China’s neighbors remain concerned about its military buildup and objectives. Miller noted that China likely is nearing deployment of a medium-range anti-ship missile.

Greater transparency from China about its military strategy could reduce the chance of a misunderstanding or miscalculation, Miller said, and toward that end the United States continues to seek greater government-to-government communication with Chinese leaders.
Oh, that missile defense system that some politicians opposed before they were in favor of it.

You know, before it became "more important than ever."

Somali Pirates: 22 March Updates

From the NATO Shipping Center, signs of the fog of the piracy war:
March 22,2011
ALERT 133 / 2011
At 0732 UTC / 22 MAR 11 / pirated MV JIN CHUN TSAI 68, suspected acting as mother ship, was reported in position 17 41N 063 18E.
March 22, 2011
MV Sinar Kudus
ALERT 124 / 2011 UPDATE
At 0550 utc / 22 Mar 2011 / Pirated MV SINAR KUDUS, suspected acting as mothership, was reported in position 14 20N 057 11E, Course: 228 / Speed: 11kts
March 21, 2011
Latitude: 17 39N. Longitude: 062 02E
Alert Update 132 / 2011
Reference previous Alert number 131 / 2011.
At 1449 UTC / 21 MAR 11 / a merchant vessel, believed to be pirated, was reported in position 1739 N 063 02 E.
This vessel has NOT been pirated.
The Pirate action group is still in the area.
March 21, 2011
Latitude: 17 39N. Longitude: 063 02E
Alert Update 131 / 2011
At 1449 UTC 21 MAR 11 a believed pirated merchant vessel was reported in position 17 39N 063 02E course 328 sp 12.
March 21, 2011
Latitude: 17 14N. Longitude: 063 18E
Alert 131 / 2011
At 1202 UTC 21 MAR 11 a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 2 skiffs in position 17 14N 063 18E.
[2 skiffs, fired upon vessel]
***This vessel is believed to be hijacked***
NATO daily summary:
MV Liquid Crystal
There is a continuing high level of piracy activity in the Arabian Sea, with one attack and a number of approaches and suspicious events taking place, most assessed as conducted by dhow-based Pirate Attack Groups (PAGs). Two Fishing Vessels used as mother ships which one of them was involved in the attack of MV LIQUID CRISTAL are also operating in the middle of Arabian Sea. The recently hijacked MV SINAR KUDUS is now moving south towards the Somali coast but can still conduct pirate mother-ship operations in this area.

In the same way the piracy activity is increasing in the Somali basin over the past weeks. MV AL NOUF has recently been attacked in the central Somali basin and whaler PAGs were reported underway off the Somali coast to most likely operate in the southern Somali Basin off Mombasa and towards the Mozambique Channel. It is assessed that the attacks conducted from whaler-based PAGs will continue in the central and southern SB when weather will become conducive.
Photo of MV Liquid Crystal from Shipspotting.com by Luis Felipe G Vaz and used in accord with the terms of that site.

Another Hot Spot: Ivory Coast

More trouble in the world, this time in the Ivory Coast.

You might have missed the story what with the Japanese tsunami and the Libya thing. A bit of background - this burgeoning civil war is related to event from years ago:
Ivory Coast was split in two after an armed rebellion in 2002. A halting peace deal in 2007 led to a unity government with Gbagbo as president and northern rebel leader Guillaume Soro as prime minister. After years of delay, the presidential election finally was conducted in November.
Gbagbo refused to step down after he was declared the loser in a United Nations-certified election last year. Winner Alassane Ouattara refuses to take part in any compromise unity government that includes his opponent, making a peaceful solution elusive.

Rinaldo Depagne, an analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank, said it was difficult to see a resolution because of the distrust between Gbagbo and Ouattara.

Red arrow points to Ivory Coast
More than 300 people have died in violence since the balloting, but recent fighting in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and the west of the country broke a six-year cease-fire and marked the apparent failure of the African Union's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the election standoff.
There are 12,000 UN "peacekeepers" in the Ivory Coast, doing goodness knows what:

Currently deployed (31 January 2011)

  • 9,024 total uniformed personnel including
    • 7,578 troops;
    • 176 military observer;
    • 1,270 police
  • 389 international civilian personnel, 737 local staff and 255 United Nations Volunteers*
Things seem to be picking up a bit - volunteers are signing up for service in the "Ivory Coast Army" as set out here:
The fighting has led some 90,000 people to cross into neighbouring Liberia, the UN refugee agency says.

UNHCR head Antonio Guterres said the conflict could affect countries across West Africa.

"The risks of destabilising the region are enormous," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He pointed out that Liberia was a poor country recovering from its own civil war and said hundreds of other refugees had also crossed into Ghana.
 "Destabalising the region?" That is not a good thing.

 These times remind me of that old song, "The Merry Minuet"
They're rioting in Africa. There's strife in Iran. What nature doesn't do to us... will be done by our fellow man.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yemen Falling

Platts reports: Yemen on the brink as military and political leaders join revolt :
The fate of the once-divided state of Yemen was at a crossroads Monday as senior military and political leaders resigned from their positions and joined a growing anti-government protest to demand the ouster of veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"Saleh has an opportunity to make a historic decision now," said one of the opposition's youth leaders on al-Jazeera television, which aired footage of what appeared to be the largest demonstration in weeks of unrest in Yemen, an oil and gas exporter and the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula.

Tanks were deployed outside the presidential palace in the capital Sana'a, where an increasingly isolated Saleh has faced a swell of popular anger over his heavy-handed handling of protests that threaten to unravel the cohesion of a tribal nation that was once split along north-south lines.
The US, which considers Saleh a key ally in the fight against al-Qaida militants operating out of Yemen, was compelled to condemn the violence in a strongly worded statement.

President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism official on Friday condemned "in the strongest terms" the brutal crackdown on protesters saying it would feed extremism.
More from Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation:
Lets see if Saleh has the brains to leave quietly without another blood bath.
Al Jazeera has "live" blog coverage.

Yemen sits on the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea - which are major sea lanes for international commerce.

Somali Pirates: 21 Mar Update

From NATO Shipping Center's SOMALIA PIRACY UPDATE 21 MARCH 2011:
March 21, 2011
Latitude: 03 47N. Longitude: 053 33E
Alert 130 / 2011
reference previous alert number 129 / 2011
At 0846 UTC / 21 MAR 11/ a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 1 mother ship and 2 skiffs in position 03 47N 053 33E
[1 mother ship, 1 skiff 4 pob, 1 skiff 10 pob, RPG's and small arms fired]
***This vessel managed to evade hijack--- the pirate action group is still in the area.
March 21, 2011
Alert 129/2011
At 0846 UTC / 21 Mar 11 / a merchant vessel is currently under attack by 1 mothership and 2 skiffs in position 03 47 N 053 33 E, 3 POB in each skiff, weapons fired.
March 21, 2011
ALERT 124 / 2011 UPDATE
At 0719 UTC / 21 Mar 11 / pirated MV SINAR KUDUS, suspected acting as mothership, was reported in position 17 18 N 060 25 E, Course: 021, Speed: 11 kts
March 20, 2011
Alert 122 / 2011 UPDATE
At 1658 UTC / 20 MAR 11/ Pirated IRENE SL suspected as action as a mothership, was reported in position 06 54N 049 25E.
Yes, the pirates are still out there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Laugh of the Day: Iran Unveils Flying Saucer

Well, given all the grim stuff in the world, occasionally it is good to get a laugh. Here's one for you: Iran's Fars News Agency reports Iran Unveils Flying Saucer:
Iran unveiled a home-made unmanned flying saucer as well as a light sports aircraft in an exhibition of strategic technologies.

The unmanned flying saucer, named "Zohal", was unveiled in a ceremony attended by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Zohal, designed and developed jointly by Farnas Aerospace Company and Iranian Aviation and Space Industries Association (IASIA), can be used for various missions, specially for aerial imaging.

The flying machine is equipped with an auto-pilot system, GPS (Global Positioning System) and two separate imaging systems with full HD 10 mega-pixel picture quality and is able to take and send images simultaneously.

Zohal uses a small, portable navigation and monitoring center for transmission of data and images and can fly in both outdoor and indoor spaces.
Frankly, I'd be more impressed if they came up with something like this:

UPDATE: Much to my non-surprise, the Iranian UFO looks a whole lot like a UFO reported in Wales in 2008:

Only sorta more squished.

I guess the British airspace has been violated by Iran or not.

Something has been violated, at any rate.

Somali Pirates: Skiffs sunk by USS Lake Champlain

USS Lake Champlain (CG-57)
Press release from Combined Maritime Force CMF ship USS Lake Champlain disrupts pirate activity, destroys pirate skiffs:
Just after 9.00 pm on Mar. 14, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) warship USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), assigned to CMF’s counter-piracy mission Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, destroyed two skiffs, successfully disrupting the activities of a group suspected of planning acts of piracy.

Lake Champlain’s helicopter was scanning the Arabian Sea for pirate activity when a suspicious dhow was seen some 520 nautical miles south of Masirah, Oman. Initial reports from the helicopter crew stated seeing the dhow towing two unmanned small skiffs, loaded with equipment commonly used by pirates. Lake Champlain was directed to intercept the suspected pirate group and after monitoring the vessels, launched a well-planned operation to destroy the skiffs using sustained fire from the ship’s MK 15 Phalanx close-in weapons system. No fire was directed against the dhow and no one sustained any injury during the operation.
That should slow them down - now the effort needs to be focused closer to the Somali coast - before the pirates get far enough out to sea to threaten sea lanes.

Map is from NATO's Counter Piracy Operation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Somali Pirates: Grab One Ship, Attack Another Using the First One as "Mother Ship"

Red is Sinar Kudus attack, yellow MV Emperor attack
First, the NATO report:
March 17. 2011
Latitude: 16 15N, Longitude: 060 26E
Alert Number 125 / 2011
At 0612 UTC / 17 MAR / a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 1 skiff from nearby suspected pirate mothership SINAR KUDUS.
***This vessel managed to evade hijack*** The Pirate Attack Group is still in the area.

March 16, 2011
Latitude: 14 21N Longitude: 059 25E
Alert Number 124/2011

***This vessel has been pirated***
At 1642 UTC / 16 Mar 11 / a merchant vessel was reported pirated in position 14 21N 059 25E travelling 005 at 6 kts.
Now, EUNAVFOR report from here:
At approximately 0730Z on 16 March, the Bulk Cargo Carrier MV SINAR KUDUS was pirated approximately 320 nautical miles North East of the island of Socotra in the Somali Basin. Within 24 hours of being taken, she was used to launch an unsuccessful attack on the MV EMPEROR.

The MV SINAR KUDUS, which is Indonesian flagged and owned, was on its way to Suez (Egypt) from Singapore when it was attacked. Details of the attack are not known at this time but initial reports from the crew stated that 30 to 50 pirates had boarded and taken control of the vessel. The MV SINAR KUDUS has a crew of 20, all Indonesian.

Within 24 hours of the attack, the MV SINAR KUDUS was used to launch a further attack on the Liberian flagged Bulk Carrier MV EMPEROR. A skiff with 5 pirates on board was launched from the SINAR KUDUS and attacked the EMPEROR but was repelled by the armed force from the merchant vessel. The EMPEROR was subsequently reported to be safe.(emphasis added)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Somali Pirates Get Life Sentences in U.S. Court

Reported as US sentences Somali pirates to life :
Five Somali men, convicted of attacking a US Navy ship, have been sentenced to life in prison by a Virginia court.

Tuesday’s sentencing is the harshest yet for accused pirates as the US tries to halt piracy off Africa's coast.

The federal prosecution relied upon rarely-used 19th century maritime laws, and was the first piracy case to go to trial since the Civil War, when a New York jury deadlocked on charges against 13 Southern privateers.

The five Somali men were convicted on federal piracy charges on November 24 last year.

Prosecutors argued during trial that the five had confessed to attacking the USS Nicholas on April 1 after mistaking it for a merchant ship.

Defence lawyers had argued the men were innocent fishermen who had been abducted by pirates and forced to fire their weapons at the ship.

However, John S Davis, an assistant US attorney, had argued that three of the men were in a skiff that opened fire on the Nicholas with assault rifles, then fled when sailors returned fire with machine guns.

Davis said all the men later confessed to the attack in remarks to an interpreter on board the ship. He said they expected to make anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 from the ransom, a comparatively small sum.
More here:
Somali pirates in action (not from the Nicholas case)
The sea brigands in March last attacked 'USS Nicholas' patrolling the east coast of Africa as part of an anti-piracy mission. But the warship's crew returned fire and captured the pirates after chasing down their vessel.

Presiding judge Mark Davis also sentenced them to an additional 80 years in prison for firearms charges in connection with the hijack attempt. The trial held at Norfolk, home port to USS Nicholas and one of the largest naval bases in the world, also witnessed the first-ever conviction by a U.S. jury in a piracy case since 1820.

Defense lawyers said they planned to appeal the conviction as well as the sentencing.

Attorney Neil MacBride told reporters that the sentence pronounced by the trial court was the longest ever in a piracy case. The buccaneer convicted in 1820 was executed. MacBride added that the punishment meted out to the five should serve as a deterrent to others embarking on the career beyond the law.
In November, the trial court had found the defendants guilty of the charges. However, the defense has maintained that the men had been abducted by Somali pirates who forced them to fire from their weapons.
Report of capture of pirates here. Report of original conviction here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Somali Pirates: Indian Navy Reports Capturing 61 Pirates

Indian Navy: 61 Somali pirates caught:
On the night of 12th March 11, at about 2100 hrs INS Kalpeni intercepted a pirate mother vessel called Vega 5 in the Arabian sea about 600 nautical miles west of India. 13 crew members were rescued and 61 pirates have been nabbed.

On 11th Mar 11, a Naval Dornier while responding to a call from MV Vancouver Bridge under pirate attack, located Vega 5 a pirate mother vessel in the area. Seeing the naval aircraft, the pirates immediately aborted their piracy attempt and the mother vessel attempted to escape from the area. Whilst IN Maritime Patrol Aircraft continuously tracked the pirate mother vessel Vega 5, Indian Naval Ships Khukri ( a missile corvette) and Kalpeni (a Water Jet Fast Attack Craft) already deployed for anti piracy patrol, were diverted to intercept and investigate Vega 5.

Vega 5 (IN photo)
On the night of 12 Mar 11 INS Kalpeni closed Vega 5. In the darkness, the pirate mother vessel launched two skiffs which fired at Kalpeni. INS Kalpeni responded with limited firing. Thereafter it was observed that a fire had broken out on Vega 5 (mother vessels are known to carry additional fuel drums to fuel the skiffs). Personnel were also seen jumping overboard. INS Kalpeni in conunction with INS Khukri recovered 74 personnel comprising 61 pirates and 13 members of the original crew of the fishing vessel. Preliminary investigations revealed that the pirates were carrying about 80 to 90 small arms/rifles and a few heavier weapons (likely to be RPGs).

Indian naval personnel and captive pirates (IN photo)
Vega 5, a Mozambique flagged fishing vessel was hijacked on 28 Dec 10 and has thereafter been used as 'mother vessel' for piracy operations. This vessel had been a risk to international shipping for last four months and has carried out several attacks.

Naval ships and aircraft are presently in the area searching for any other fishermen/pirates.
UPDATE: Arrest of these pirates gives rise to threat from at least one one other Somali pirate:
A self-described pirate in Somalia who gave his name as Bile Hussein said the arrests will lead to "trouble" for Indian sailors and ships.

"They better release them, considering their people traveling in the waters, or we shall jail their people like that," he said. "We are first sending a message to the Indian government of releasing our friends in their hands or else they have to be ready for their citizens to be mistreated in the near future."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Somali Pirates: Clearance Sale

Somali pirates seem to be overstocked on captured ships and are have a "deep discount" fire sale, as set out in Somali pirates cut ransoms to clear hijacked ships:
Armed pirate gangs, who have made millions of dollars capturing ships as far south as the Seychelles and eastwards towards India, said they were holding too many vessels and needed a quicker handover to generate more income.

"I believe there is no excuse for taking high ransoms. At least each of our groups holds ships now," pirate Hussein told Reuters from Hobyo on the Somalian coast. He said the pirates were holding more than 30 ships at the moment.

My idea of what a "fire sale" should look like for the pirates
"We have lowered the ransom only for the ships we have used to hijack other ships. We sometimes release these ships free of charge for they generate more (money). But we shall not lower the ransom for the bulk ships we are sure can bring bulk money."
Isn't that special?

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: 2nd Quarter Update

Join us this afternoon (5pm at the new 5pm) for Midrats on BlogTalkRadio:
The military's response to the Japanese earthquake, turmoil in the Arab world, gas prices spiking, China's military coming out of the shadows, and START treaties are bouncing around. Could there be a better time for a full hour with one of our regular guest, Mackenzie Eaglen., Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation? I don't think so.
Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, March 11, 2011

Somali Pirates: Released Ship Sinking -Crew Rescued

Odd events from a ship recently turned loose by Somali pirates after 332 days of being held, as reported at EU NAVFOR and Italian Navy Rescue Crew of Pirated Vessel:
On the morning of 9 March, marine authorities received a distress call from the MV ARAK AFRIKANA stating that they were taking on large amounts of water due to what was described as a ‘hole in the hull’. The vessel had been released from pirate control only hours earlier.

The EU NAVFOR warship SPS CANARIAS was immediately sent to assist the stricken vessel and was later joined by the Italian warship ITS ZEFFIRO which arrived first and carried out the rescue operation. The master of the vessel stated that the ship would probably sink in about 5 hours. 25 crewmembers abandoned the RAK AFRIKANA and took to the lifeboats. The crew were rescued by Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) from the Italian warship shortly afterward. The SPS CANARIAS resumed her Counter-Piracy duties once the situation was resolved.

The RAK AFRIKANA was pirated on 11 April 2010. There is no information on the cause of the damage that led to the distress call. The rescued crew members are reported to be in satisfactory condition considering that they have been held captive for the last 332 days. It is not known if the RAK AFRIKANA is still afloat at this time.

The rescue operation was coordinated by the EU NAVFOR Headquarters in the UK and needed close cooperation with the Italian Navy to ensure a safe and successful outcome.
Intentionally holed by the pirates or just a lack of maintenance for a year? A convoluted report here:
The RAK Afrikana is a 30-year-old cargo ship, small as ships go at about 8,000 tonnes DWT, flying what is called an "open register" flag, or Flag of Convenience (FOC).

But this vessel is basically an ageing rust bucket surviving on the deficiencies in this system of "anything that goes flags". In this case, St Vincent & Grenadines, which just happens to also be blessed with a Governor General and a Queen, both from England, thank you very much.

But not British enough to send the British Navy, sure. She was based in Ras Al Khaimah, part of the UAE, where she functioned as a cadet-training ship, preparing young people for a career at sea under the New Zealand marine system, with a link also to BIT, India. ***
Long story cut short, a few days ago, the ransom was paid out, and the pirates abandoned the ship, which was literally on its last legs anyways. The sum is rumoured to be around $1.2 million. A total of 25 of the seafarers onboard were first transferred to an Italian warship, and then again to another merchant ship recently freed, and now headed for Mombasa . . .
Bottom line - wasted away in Pirateville.