PSI Part Deux: Red Sea Regatta

The AP reports that representatives of ten Western countries have just spent “two days in Copenhagen”: to discuss “an international naval force to stem the flow of smuggled arms to Gaza.”

Experts from the U.S., Canada and eight European countries met in Copenhagen to discuss ways to stop arms smuggling to the Hamas-controlled territory. No decision was taken but an international naval force was one of the options on the table, said Michael Zilmer-Johns, a senior diplomat at the Danish Foreign Ministry.

“This is one of the tools that might be considered,” he told reporters after the meeting ended. “There’s a problem and there’s a need to solve it.”

Israel and the European Union sent observers to the workshop, while Egypt declined an invitation. Organizers gave no reason.

This comes on the heels of an attempt by the U.S. Navy to detain a Cypriot-flagged ship sailing from Iran in the Red Sea. “Per Reuters”:

The Cyprus-flagged Monchegorsk has been docked off the Mediterranean island for almost a week as authorities check its cargo. The United States, which earlier boarded the ship in the Red Sea, said its navy found weapons on board which it could not confiscate for legal reasons.

Without the happenstance of the vessel steaming past the shores of Cyprus while flying its flag, it seems there would have been little ground for further action. According to “David Eshel at AvWeek’s Ares blog”:, the ship had set out under other colors entirely:

According to unofficial intelligence reports, the _Iran Shahed_ set out from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas Dec. 29, the second day of the Gaza conflict, changing its identity several times until hoisting a Cypriot flag.


On Thursday afternoon, though, as the ship passed 100 km. off the coast of the Cyprus port of Limassol, it was stopped by the Cypriot Navy, which was legally allowed to intercept it since it was flying a Cypriot flag. Cyprus’s decision to intercept the ship, officials said, was made after the United States and several European countries applied pressure on the government in Nicosia. The officials said that the ship was believed to be carrying a number of shipping containers packed with weaponry.

It sounds like dumb luck and fast thinking won the day. Is that the plan for the future?

The Copenhagen meeting seems to represent partial fulfillment of the mid-January “U.S.-Israel MOU whose text popped up in _Ha’aretz_”: The bit in question:

2. The United States will work with regional and NATO partners to address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, including through the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and eastern Africa, through improvements in existing arrangements or the launching of new initiatives to increase the effectiveness of those arrangements as they relate to the prevention of weapons smuggling to Gaza. Among the tools that will be pursued are:

* Enhanced U.S. security and intelligence cooperation with regional governments on actions to prevent weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories; including through the involvement of relevant components of the U.S. Government, such as U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Special Operations Command.

* Enhanced intelligence fusion with key international and coalition naval forces and other appropriate entities to address weapons supply to Gaza;

* Enhancement of the existing international sanctions and enforcement mechanisms against provision of material support to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, including through an international response to those states, such as Iran, who are determined to be sources of weapons and explosives supply to Gaza.

Now, you might be asking, why does all this sound so familiar? Because it’s “PSI, Part Deux”:

That endeavor, you might recall, also came on the heels of the catch-and-release of a maritime arms shipment, in this case “North Korea’s _So San_”:

A couple of semi-deep thoughts present themselves:

First, in the right (wrong?) geographic and political setting, mundane artillery rockets turn out to be true strategic weapons, the stuff of serious international concern even if they don’t quality as “WMD.”

Second, the failure to create a strong legal architecture for interdiction is still being felt. The entire idea of PSI was to get something (by way of cooperation) for nothing (by way of binding commitments). This false start may explain, in part, why UNSCR 1540 hasn’t really gotten off the ground, as “Aaron Arnold”: and “Elizabeth Turpen”: discussed back in August.

It’s early yet, but let’s hope it works out better this time around.

_(Bonus points if you recognized the origins of the phrase “Red Sea Regatta”:,M1.)_

Update: Here’s a “musical bonus that seems fitting”:

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