Saturday, February 25, 2012

Global media typed up Iranian spin on naval visit to Jeddah

If you follow the Middle East, you read all over the place 2 weeks ago that two Iranian naval ships had stopped in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on the way to the Mediterranean.

AFPIranian naval ships docked on Saturday in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on a mission to project the Islamic republic's "power on the open seas," the Fars news agency reported.  The supply ship Kharg and Shaid Qandi, a destroyer, docked in the Red Sea port in line with orders from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it quoted navy commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari as saying. "This mission aims to show the power of the Islamic republic of Iran on the open seas and to confront Iranophobia," he said, adding that the mission started several days ago and would last 70 to 80 days.

BBC: Iranian warships have entered the Mediterranean Sea for only the second time since the 1979 revolution.  The destroyer Shahid Qandi and its supply vessel Kharg have passed through the Suez Canal but their destination remains unclear ... The ships were reported to have docked earlier at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

There's just one problem: as described, the port call never happened. Saudi Press Agency explains:

First: On 18/01/1433H., the Iranian officials at the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran in Riyadh submitted through official channels a request for allowing two ships (Kharg and Naghdi) and a helicopter affiliating to the Iranian Naval Forces to dock at Jeddah Islamic Port during the period of 1-7/02/2012. The docking comes within a training tour for students of the Iranian Navy and within the framework of friendly visits. Such docking was approved by Saudi authorities.
Second: The Iranian officials at the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran in Riyadh submitted another request for allowing Bandar Abbas Ship, Alvand Ship, Alborz Ship and a helicopter to dock at Jeddah Islamic Port during the same period. These ships replace the two ships that have already requested to dock at Jeddah Islamic Port (i.e., Kharg and Naghdi). The purpose of such docking is part of a training tour for students of the Iranian Navy, rather than what has been stated by the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari who said the purpose of this visit is to communicate with the countries of the region, render false any Iranian threat, and show his country's capabilities in international waters and foreign ports.
These approvals come within the framework of a long tradition of naval forces throughout the world, allowing passage and docking within international conventions.
The approval of the Ministry of Defense of such a procedure stems from the keenness of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on sustaining strong ties of friendship with all brotherly and friendly countries as well as its commitment to the principle of good faith in order to uphold these relations based on friendship, respect, and mutual trust.'

Thus, the two ships cited in all the media reports did not stop in Jeddah, perhaps because the dwindling number of professionals in the Iranian Navy saw a conflict between the ships' later sabre-rattling mission to Syria and the use of traditional goodwill on the seas to get a stop in Jeddah. Other ships were sent on the original training call, but one Iranian clown couldn't resist a little buffoonery regarding the originally scheduled visit. Next thing you know, it's "news."