On August 21st, 2008, the MV Iran Deyant, 44,458 dead weight bulk carrier was heading towards the Suez Canal. As it was passing the Horn of Africa, about 80 miles southeast of al-Makalla in Yemen, the ship was surrounded by speedboats filled with members of a gang of Somalian pirates who grab suitable commercial ships and hold them and their cargos and crews for ransom. The captain was defenseless against the 40 pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades blocking his passage. He had little choice other than to turn his ship over to them. What the pirates were not banking on, however, was that this was no ordinary ship.
The MV Iran Deyanat is owned and operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) – a state-owned company run by the Iranian military that was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on September 10, shortly after the ship’s hijacking.
According to the U.S. Government, the company regularly falsifies shipping documents in order to hide the identity of end users, uses generic terms to describe shipments to avoid the attention of shipping authorities, and employs the use of cover entities to circumvent United Nations sanctions to facilitate weapons proliferation for the Iranian Ministry of Defense. The MV Iran Deyanat departed Nanjing, China, July 28, and, according to its manifest, planned to sail to Rotterdam, where it would offload 42,500 tons of iron ore and « industrial products » purchased by an unidentified German client. The ship has a crew of 29 men, including a Pakistani captain, an Iranian engineer, 13 other Iranians, 3 Indians, 2 Filipinos, and 10 Eastern Europeans, stated to be Albanians.
The MV Iran Deyanat was brought to Eyl, a sleepy fishing village in northeastern Somalia, and was secured by a larger gang of pirates – 50 onboard and 50 onshore. The Somali pirates attempted to inspect the ship’s seven cargo containers but the containers were locked. The crew claimed that they did not have the « access codes » and could not open them. Pirates have stated they were unable to open the hold without causing extensive damage to the ship, and threatened to blow it up. The Iranian ships captain and the engineer were contacted by cell phone and demanded to disclose the actual nature of the mysterious powdered cargo but the captain and his officers were very evasive. Initially they said that the cargo contained « crude oil » but then claimed it contained « minerals. » Following this initial rebuff, the pirates broke open one of the containers and discovered it to be filled with packets of what they said was a powdery fine sandy soil ….
Within a period of three days, those pirates who had boarded the ship and opened the cargo container with its gritty sand-like contents, all developed strange health complications, to include serious skin burns and loss of hair. And within two weeks, sixteen of the pirates subsequently died, either on the ship or on shore.
News about the illness and the toxic cargo quickly reached Garowe, seat of the government for the autonomous region of Puntland. Angered over the wave of piracy and suspicious about the Iranian ship, authorities dispatched a delegation led by Minister of Minerals and Oil Hassan Allore Osman to investigate the situation on September 4. and they witnessed some of the deaths due to exposure to something on that ship.
The Somali pirates initially set the ship’s ransom at $2 million and the Iranian government provided $200,000 to a local broker « to facilitate the exchange. » The $2 million dollar ransom agreement, which was supposedly secured on September 6th, never took place for reasons unknown. After September 10th, sanctions on IRISL were applied specifically because the company was said to engaged in illicit operations on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Serious negotiations were broken off completely. Iranian authorities subsequently denied that it agreed to the price nor had paid any money to the pirates. Nevertheless, after sanctions were applied to IRISL on September 10, Osman says, the Iranians told the pirates that the deal was off. « They told the pirates that they could not come because of the presence of the U.S. Navy. » The region is patrolled by the multinational Combined Taskforce 150, which includes ships from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Subsequently, it was disclosed that the U.S. government had offered to pay $7 million to the pirates to « receive entry permission and search the vessel. » Officials in the Pentagon and the Department of State have consistently refused to comment on the situation.
The exact nature of the cargo remains officially a mystery but officials in Puntland and Baidoa are convinced the ship was carrying weapons to Eritrea for Islamist insurgents. « We cannot inspect the cargo yet, » Osman said, « but we are sure that it is weapons. »
The US Navy (and the French and the Russians) have been hove to off the coast of Eyl, going anywhere once released, it will be seized once it gets to sea. The specific clauses that have been approved in both the UN and in Congress would allow the US Navy to seize the ship under the suspicion clause. The claims that there are weapons onboard, and the possibility there might be chemical weapons, has insured there is at the very minimum, an inspection of the ship by outside authority will be mandated. At this writing, the MV Iran Deyanat is at anchor, watched closely by American, French and Russian naval units.
Although American intelligence and government sources are maintaining a strictly observed silence, the same does not apply to the Russians and so it is that we learn the real story of the MV Iran Deyanat. She was an enormous floating dirty bomb, intended to detonate after exiting the Suez Canal at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in proximity to the coastal cities of Israel. The entire cargo of radioactive sand, obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore.
Given the large number of deaths from the questing Somali pirates, it should be obvious that when the contents of the ships locked cargo containers finally descended onto the land, the death toll would be enormous. This ship was nothing more nor less than the long-anticipated Iranian attack on Israel. Not the expected rocket attacks (which could be intercepted by the Israelis) but an even more deadly and unexpected attack by sea.. It is very interesting to note that the Israeli government has in the past few weeks, been loudly demanding that the United States establish a naval blockade of Iran.
The reason for this blockade would be to prevent any more Iranian ships with deadly cargos from attacking either Israel or other targets from the sea.