Jeffrey LewisSaga of the Monchegorsk

On July 11, a massive explosion ripped through an ammunition dump at the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base in Cyprus.  The explosion and ensuing fire have killed a dozen people, including the commander of the Cypriot Navy. The main power station for the island was also destroyed, creating a dire situation for the island’s residents.

The explosion was caused by 98 canisters of Iranian munitions, containing more than 2,000 tons of explosives, that Cyprus seized en route to Syria in January 2009. They remained sitting at the Naval Base where they were stored, until a wildfire engulfed them. Or so the papers say.

Obviously, the human tragedy is paramount.   But there is also a significant public policy issue related to the enforcement of sanctions against Iran, North Korea and the like.

Cyprus had been reluctant to accept the cargo, ostensibly because it did not have the facilities to store the munitions.

Although Cyprus had more complicated reasons for wanting rid of the munitions, as we will see, the explosion points to a missing element in efforts to interdict illicit cargoes: Clear guidance from the United Nations Security Council on the disposition of seized contraband.

The case of the M/V Monchegorsk, a Russian-owned, Cypriot flagged-ship, is an interesting one.

The saga of the Monchegorsk was covered extensively in the press, especially in Cyprus where, for a time, it was a major political issue.  It is also detailed in more than a dozen cables that have been released by  Wikileaks.  (It is amazing how, for any new story lately, I now check the cable traffic first.)

The story begins with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, an Iranian entity subject to sanctions. IRISL chartered the Monchegorsk to carry a shipment of small arms to Syria in violation of UNSCR 1747. (As it turns out, the practice of using charters to evade sanctions is a relatively recent Iranian innovation for sanctions busting. See: IRANIAN SHIPPING IN A POST-UNSCR 1803 ENVIRONMENT, October 2, 2009)

The United States received “reliable information” that the Monchegorsk was carrying contraband.  The United States and Cyprus have a bilateral shipboarding agreement. The USS SAN ANTONIO interdicted the shipment and, with the permission of the ship’s master, boarded the Monchegorsk on 19 and 20 January 2009. And what to their wondering eyes did appear, but fifty-five crates of illicit gear:

The inspection revealed containers carrying 120 mm, 122 mm, 125 mm, and 160 mm high explosives that originated in Iran and are destined for Syria. Inspection also revealed 7.62 mm shell casings, compressed gunpowder, silver dollar-sized slugs, primer, and magnesium primers.

The United States did not have the legal authority to seize the cargo, but Cyprus did.  The United States pressed Cyprus to divert the ship back to a Cypriot port. (SHIPMENT OF MILITARY-RELATED ITEMS FROM IRAN TO SYRIA, January 22, 2009)

Initially, the Cypriots wanted no part of any interdiction, fearing Syrian retaliation. In 2006, Cyprus interdicted a ship carrying missile radar equipment from North Korea to Syria — and Syria retaliated by opening regular ferry service to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the breakaway Northern portion of Cyprus. (CYPRUS WASHING HANDS OF M/V MONCHEGORSK? January 27, 2009)

The fear that Syria might further strengthen diplomatic relations with the TRNC was complicated by a second factor — the Cypriot President is an old-style Non-Aligned Leftist who is far more inclined to side with Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela on such matters. (His Foreign Minister, and possible rival for the Presidency is not.)  “On the Monchegorsk incident,” the US Ambassador to Cyprus Frank Urbancic wrote, “it is clear that the Christofias Palace, not the Kyprianou MFA, is clearly at the helm.” By way of a warrant for this claim, most of the negotiations over the Monchegorsk were handled by the Presidential Diplomatic Coordinator Leonidas Pantelides rather than the MFA. (Although the Foreign Minister makes a small cameo, undermining the President of Cyprus to the UK High Commissioner.)

It took several days for Cyprus to order the ship back to port.  (M/V MONCHEGORSK STILL LOITERING OFF LARNACA , January 28, 2009 and ENGAGING THE ROC REGARDING THE M/V MONCHEGORSK, January 29, 2009)

Characterizing Cypriot cooperation as “half-hearted,” Urbancic wrote, “Only a full-court international press from the UN Security Council and EU convinced Cyprus to summon the vessel to port for a more-thorough inspection and eventual seizure of the cargo.”  (SCENESETTER FOR FM KYPRIANOU’S APRIL 20 VISIT, April 16, 2009)

This process resulted in an amusing note to the captain of the Monchegorsk that read, in part:

Dear Captain Smirnov

The reason that we ask you to direct the ship to Limassol is to ensure that its cargo is in conformity with UN Security  Council Resolutions 1747 (2007) and 1803 (2008).

Any cargo which is not in conformity has to be unloaded at Limassol in order to avoid infringement of the above Resolutions and violation of the Cyprus Ships (Prohibition of  Transportation) Laws 1966-1971 (Law 26/66 as amended).

Captain Smirnov?  Really? Was Captain Morgan on vacation?

Once the ship anchored at the Cypriot port of Limassol, Cypriot officials absolutely opposed bringing the cargo ashore “on safety grounds.” (M/V MONCHEGORSK ANCHORED OFF LIMASSOL, January 29, 2009)

It soon became clear that the Cypriots were in a real bind.  A Cypriot diplomat suggested that Cyprus transfer the cargo to either the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus (UNFCYP) or Lebanon (UNIFIL), which operates out of a port in Cyprus. The US Ambassador made polite noises about his “creative thinking” which, in the Foreign Service, is not a compliment. (CYPRUS: GOVERNMENT SEEKING MUTUALLY-PALATABLE END STATE, January 29, 2009)

The Cypriots continued to make clear that they did not want to keep the cargo, owing to “heavy pressure” from Syria and Iran.  They were extraordinarily worried about the legality of the seizure and, in turn, the legality of simply turning the cargo over to a third party.  The US explained that there was “no mechanism” to give the cargo to UNIFIL, but instead suggested giving the cargo to the British (who have bases on Cyprus, which is not something the government likes reminding Cypriots about) or even the French. The Cypriots didn’t like any proposal that didn’t involve the UN and suggested they might ask the UN Sanctions Panel how to proceed. The United States really did not like this idea, for fear of asking Russia’s advice without knowing the answer. (MONCHEGORSK: MFA SEEKING LEGAL OPINIONS, January 30, 2009.)

The standoff continued, with the United Nations Security Council and European Union putting the screws to Cyprus.  At this point, the Germans also offered to take the cargo. (CYPRIOTS STILL WEIGHING OPTIONS ON MONCHEGORSK , February 2, 2009)

The Cypriots turn down the German offer, too, insisting again on a “a blue flag solution” — the involvement of the United Nations.  That left the option of simply asking the UN Sanctions Panel for “guidance” on the disposition of the goods, something the UK High Commissioner made very clear Cyprus should not do.  (M/V MONCHEGORSK: CYPRUS INSISTS ON UN COVER, February 3, 2009) At this point, we get our cameo from Foriegn Minister Kyprianou, who doesn’t much like the President of Cyprus, telling the UK High Commissioner that “these people — pointing at President Demetris Christofias and fellow AKEL party glitterati — had allowed the Monchegorsk to become an ideological, David versus Goliath affair, with ‘little Cyprus’ naturally cozying up to Syria’s David.”

The Cypriots — clearly frustrated with the inability to settle on the disposition of the goods still sitting on the ship — decided to send a letter to the Sanctions Committee asking for guidance. I don’t have a copy of the letter, but here is how the Cypriots described it in the press:

Due to the origin of the cargo, it needs to be examined whether this specific shipment falls within any specific (UN) resolution ban, and it’s from here we expect UN guidance,” Cyprus Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou told reporters.

“Depending on the UN reaction, we shall take decisions and act accordingly,” he added.

Urbancic would later characterize this step as “unhelpful,” which is how a diplomat would describe a range of unpleasant behavior up to and including making a sex tape with his daughter.

The really crucial day appears to be February 5.  The morning begins with Pantelides (again, the President’s diplomatic coordinator)  insisting that the cargo must leave Cyprus “in possession of UN.”  Then, it seems, the Cypriots realize that the Russians will not bail them out — the “guidance” gambit has failed. A few hours later, Pantelides calls back to say Cyprus is now interested in finding a third party to take the cargo, suggesting Malta.  (He explains that Germany would be too high profile.) (MONCHEGORSK: CYPRIOTS BEGINNING TO SQUIRM, February 5, 2009)

It is clear, at this point, that the Cypriot government is under incredible pressure to accept the cargo, but is desperately trying to develop the Malta solution. The US again offers to provide diplomatic and technical assistance with the disposition of the cargo, which is nice but not exactly what the Cypriots want at that moment. (MONCHEGORSK: CYPRUS FLESHING OUT MALTA IDEA, CONSIDERING OTHERS, February 6, 2009).

Then, suddenly, the Cypriots crack. It isn’t clear what happens. Maybe the President shoots down the Malta proposal.  Maybe Malta shoots down the Malta proposal.  Maybe the Russians run out of patience. One way or another, on February 12, the Russian Foreign Minister emerges from a meeting with his Turkish counterpart explaining that “the only correct thing to do is to support the steps made by the Cypriot side.”   (The Cypriots also send another letter to the UN Sanctions Committee the same day.)

Then,on February 13, the  Cypriots begin unloading the cargo from the Monchegorsk. At this point, Cyprus releases a terse statement:

The Republic of Cyprus has decided to unload the material on the ship Monchegorsk and keep it on Cyprus,” the statement said.

“The Republic of Cyprus has already informed the UN Security Council sanctions committee of its decision. No risk is involved in keeping the cargo,” it said, without elaborating.

According to one local press report, the cargo was placed in a temporary storage facility constructed over a few days in February 2009.  It appears the munitions were in the same facility until the explosion. (According to the son of the Cypriot Navy Commander killed in the explosion, his father “pleaded for their removal but was ignored by the government.”)

A mid-level Foreign Ministry contact explains that “all the major players” are satisfied with the solution.  When pressed whether that includes Syria and Iran, he says “it seems so.” (MONCHEGORSK: CARGO OFFLOADED, February 13, 2009 )

On February 19, the Cypriots announce that the ship sans its illicit cargo is free to leave.

What the hell happened?

The Associated Press carried a strange March 4 report that indicated Syria was still pressuring Cyprus over the cargo, although it must have been clear by that point that Cyprus could not fork over the goods.  But Cyprus also refused all offers of assistance for disposing of the material.

On March 29, the United States circulates a draft of a letter from the UN Sanctions Committee that says little about about the disposition of the cargo beyond encouraging the Cypriots to ask for help. (USUN INSTRUCTION: IRAN SANCTIONS COMMITTEE EFFORTS ON MONCHEGORSK , March 29, 2009.)

Careful readers will also note that, on June 10, 2009, the US and Cyprus held a bilateral meeting on arms destruction. This was a MANPADS-related meeting and, as far as I can tell from another cable, unrelated to the disposition of the cargo intended for Syria.

So there the cargo sat in the hot Mediterranean sun, at least until Monday.

It would have been better if we have given Cyprus a UN-sanctioned route to transfer control of the material to a third party.

It turns the out the munitions were not safe in Cyprus, although that is not the real reason that Nicosia wanted no part of the seizure.  (And it is difficult to fault Western policymakers who repeatedly offered technical assistance.) Yet this will be a convenient excuse for other states, perhaps those in Southeast Asia, that may be reluctant to interdict illicit shipments for fear of retaliation by Iran or others. Didn’t you see what happened in Cyprus?  We can’t possibly order a ship carrying such dangerous weapons into one of our major ports. We don’t even have the proper storage facilities.

Which brings us back to the United Nations: The Cypriots desperately wanted the United Nations to order them to turn over the cargo.  It is not hard to understand why.  If Cyprus has a choice in the fate of the cargo, then Nicosia is subject to coercion by Syria.  If, on the other hand, Nicosia simply cannot comply with Syria’s demands, then coercion is futile.  This is Tom Schelling’s point about what he called “the old business of burning bridges” — “maneuvering into a position where one clearly cannot yield.” Nicosia wanted the UN to burn its bridges.

That would suggest that it might be a useful thing for the Security Council, in elaborating on the obligations outlined in UNSCR 1540, to enjoin states seizing illicit goods to forfeit their  possession to a designated United Nations entity, which in turn would arrange for disposal. There are a variety of options that might work, from supervised destruction under UNMOVIC to a model of delegated disposal under the sanctions committees. I haven’t thought through the modalities carefully, beyond observing that leaving disposal to the discretion of individual states has significant disadvantages that, by now, should be obvious.

It’s late, I’m tired, I ‘m sure there are lots of typos and other oddities.  The last paragraph may not even be in English. I will deal with it in the morning.

Update | 14 July 2011 I mistakenly presumed that the Cypriot rationale for handing the weapons over to UNIFIL was that the small arms were headed for Hezbollah.  Although there were press reports that the arms might be headed to Hezbollah or Hamas, the cables are silent about the destination beyond Syria. Cyprus wanted to surrender the seized cargo to UNIFIL, because it operates out of the port of Limassol, where the M/V Monchegorsk was anchored.


  1. Pirouz (History)

    What a tool that element of the UNSC resolution is; conveniently tacked on to that pretext of a nuclear dispute with Iran. Really too bad it results in tragedy for the Cypriots.

  2. Raybender (History)

    No need to apologize. This was one of your better posts of late. Captain Morgan? Diplomats’ daughters? I snarfed my coffee.

    • kme (History)

      Completely in agreement!

  3. masoud (History)

    The US makes the Somali pirates look like amateurs. It’s ridiculous how they manage to hold the Governments of what are supposedly sovereign entities hostage with such regularity. Delivering Iranian weapons to Syria is simply unacceptable, but handing those same weapons over to British, French or German military bases, which for some reason are located in the middle of the Mediterranean is the most natural thing in the world(I must have missed that in the resolution’s fine print).

    If the US had any shame at all it would have already started delivering emergency generators and fuel, as well as pledged to compensate Cyprus the 800 million for the generator, as well as the lives of the Cypriot soldiers. Unfortunately Congress is busy at the moment tackling those horrendous bus pass discount entitlements for seniors.

    From the Iranian point of view, the story could hardly have turned out any better, and with any luck at all, this unfortunate event will cast it’s shadow over the competence and legitimacy of the UNSC as a whole, and not it’s Iran related activities.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      What of Syria, which pressured Cyprus to refuse Western offers of removal and disposal?

      How much does Syria owe Cyprus?

    • masoud (History)

      meant to say….”and not just it’s Iran related activities.”

      Any way this is just the type of thing I that will speed the process up:

      Gonna be a hard sell.

    • masoud (History)


      Western ‘offers’ of Removal? Was Syria refusing to accept the cargo? I really do think it is incredible that we are comparing Syria’s reluctance to be allow itself to be robbed blind on the high seas to the US perniciousness of demanding Cyprus make itself an accessory to such a campaign solely on the basis that it suits US geo-strategy as if they are flip sides of the same coin.

      I think Cyrpiots, going by the time line you have outlined(commendable write up by the way), are likely to see the US rather than Syria, as the prime mover of events over here. Cyprus never asked to be involved in the US crusade and understands that as time goes by, it will have to integrate itself more tightly with it’s near neighbors in a region which heavily resents this kind of US ‘Leadership’.

      But to answer your question Jeff, I think the Syrians and Iranians should take Cyprus to the ICJ for illegitimately disrupting their legitimate commercial activities. And if the Cypriots do want to get back at Uncle Sam for this debacle, I’d advise them to throw the case, and accept Iranian assistance in rebuilding their infrastructure. Things may not in actuality be that simple, but the possibility that Iran would be able to deal a legal blow to the UNSC sanctions regime that would essentially flush the past eight years of US diplomatic maneuvering down the drain for the price of a low interest loan and another contract for the IRGC’s Khatam-ol-Anbia is worth a chuckle.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      What if the ICJ ruled the seizure legal?

    • masoud (History)

      That is a significant risk. I don’t know that the ICJ makeup is necessarily free from political considerations today, though they were free enough to rebuke the US over Nicaragua in the 1980s.

      I find it doubtful a negative ruling on Iran would be arrived at ‘on the merits’, though. An ICJ ruling in favor of the US/UNSC position, would make the doctrine of the unitary executive look like the Magna Carta. It would authorize the UNSC to take any action, anywhere in the world, for any reason, whether or not there is a conflict of interest involving a P5 member state, and not even requiring that there be a ‘dispute’ between two parties. Worse still, the dictates of this newly crowned Security Cabal would supersede even the rights of citizens under national Laws and Constitutional Frameworks the world over. Any judge who would sign his name to such a ruling would have to expect that is name would live in infamy for generations to come. I think the worst case for Iran would be that the ICJ would diplomatically find that it has no jurisdiction.

      I think given the extent of the current battle going on, it is only a matter of time before some part of this winds up in front of some kind of tribunal. Iran may as well take the initiative on an issue where the US is wrong footed. The ICJ is probably the best venue of the bunch. I think Iran’s case over here solid, and whether or not Iran wins, things in practice won’t really change. It’ll mainly be a propaganda exercise, and what does Iran have to lose on the Western PR front anyway?

      I’d love to hear Dan Joyner’s take on the legality of the sanctions resolutions.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      To be clear, I would not support the routine interdiction of shipments outside the framework of international law. (The United States, for instance, did not seize the cargo directly but rather asked Cyprus to fulfill its obligations under the UN sanctions resolutions, which I believe was the correct policy.)

      I believe the sanctions, in particular the ban on conventional arms transfers, are appropriate and legal. There is a larger question about their wisdom, but that is another matter.

    • Malenki Sasha (History)

      It would appear that the seizure was legal, although there was certainly an abuse of the bilateral shipboarding agreement between US and Cyprus (it strictly pertains to stopping the proliferation of WMDs and related material) and the use of diplomatic pressure for Cyprus to actually seize the materials.

      On a side note, I think the idea was for Syria not to receive the shipment at all. It would appear this is more of an issue of small arms proliferation than trying to undermine Iranian exports. I would prefer not to speculate but Syria has long been used as a corridor for supplying Hizbollah. Although the list of arms was not clear whether the explosives where artillary shells or rockets, only the 122 mm is used by the Syrian army; the others dont seem to have a place in their arsenal. I would not put it past the Syrian defense industry to manufacture these munitions on their own.

    • kme (History)

      It seems likely to me that the Cypriot government has total and completely sovereignty over a Cypriot-flagged ship, and all crew and cargo on her.

      Them’s the breaks when you use a flag of convenience.

    • Scott Monje (History)


      More precisely, the flag state has jurisdiction over the ship when it’s on the high seas (outside any state’s territorial limits) and shares jurisdiction when the ship is in another state’s territorial waters or in port. In the latter case, the coast state/port state is in a better position to enforce its jurisdiction. (In the exclusive economic zone, there is a sharing limited to certain economic activities.)

    • masoud (History)


      Actually, you do have a point about the ship being Cypriot flagged. I think this does make the search legal. I believe the seizure, however, remains clearly illegal. If the cargo contained illicit drugs, or human cargo, seizure would have been warranted, but the goods being shipped were legal under the framework of the national laws of all states concerned.

      Just about the only way to imagine that this seizure was legal is to claim that UNSC resolutions can never be subject to judicial review at any time.

      I am curious though, why do you believe these measures remain ‘appropriate’? The P-5 UNSC states are the five largest small arms profiteers on the planet. The ban against Iranian trade in conventional arms struck me as opportunistic protectionism than anything else. How does a measure like this enhance nuclear non proliferation, even in principle?

  4. jeannick (History)

    is there a more precise description of the ordnance?
    It might light up the intended purpose

    the cables seems to imply that U.S. access to the 98 containers was restricted
    ( we just want to help , not snoop , honest !)

    122mm is SOOOO soviet as to be uncharacteristic
    130mm and 160mm could be either missiles or anti tank

    On the face of it , the cargo could be sourced for the Syrian Army , which leave the question of why would they get the stuff from Iran , hardly a Soviet/Russian recipient of warware , while Syria has its own very good supply pipeline from the ex USSR
    the small arm caliber stuff could be send so that manufacturing couldn’t be sourced to Iran or whatever
    but that’s too cute by half , ex soviet 7.62mm ammo are everywhere and hardly significant
    sending it yet unmade with the powder and the primers
    is hardly cost effective and smack of a bargain basement clearance

    • John Schilling (History)

      Iran doesn’t buy much directly from Russia, true, but they do buy from people whose arms industry was set up by Soviet engineers during the early cold war. W/re calibers, I didn’t see 130mm listed in the cable, just 120mm, 122mm, 125mm, and 160mm.

      122mm is as you note a standard Russian artillery caliber, used by every nation that was ever even indirectly Soviet aligned (including Iran and Syria) and manufactured in those with any serious arms industry (including Iran). Could be either gun/howitzer shells or Grad rockets.

      130mm, if present, is also a fairly common Russian artillery caliber, used among other things for long-range cannon. Iran seems to manufacture the stuff, and Syria to use it.

      120mm is the entire world’s standard heavy mortar caliber. Everybody uses it, everybody with an arms
      industry worth mentioning makes it.

      160mm is an old Russian super-heavy mortar caliber, also used by Finland and Israel, all three of whom have export customers. Probably some of the old Soviet-bloc users have set up domestic manufacture, perhaps including Iran, but I have no specifc information. There are also Romanian and Israeli 160mm artillery rockets; these are less likely candidates. The Russian mortars and ammunition have been showing up in Iraq, so there’s clearly some Middle Eastern supply and/or inventory.

      125mm is a Russian tank gun caliber (including gun-launched missiles) , and not much else. Syria and Iran both use it, Iran makes it, and no terrorist group has any use for it.

      This was pretty obviously a shipment from Iranian munitions firms to the Syrian Army, though the possibility of the Syrians passing some of the small arms and lighter artillery stuff to Hezbollah cannot be ruled out. I’ll let the lawyers argue whether it is legal to interdict purely conventional arms shipments as part of a sanctions-enforcement regime, and who Syria should be complaining to if they paid for the stuff in good faith.

  5. Doug Weir (History)

    Nice wrangling of a complex situation, however I would question your presumption that the shipment was headed for Hezbollah: “where the weapons were presumably headed for use by Hezbollah.”

    Quotes from other cables shed a bit more light on the contents of the shipment, which included: “125 mm Gun APFSDS [Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilizing Discarded Sabot]” and “HEAT [High Explosive Anti-Tank]. See:

    To the best of our knowledge, Hezbollah do not have any armour capable of utilising large calibre APFSDS or HEAT rounds, preferring instead a range of flexible and mobile anti-tank missiles such as Sagger etc.

    This does therefore beg the question of where were these weapons headed, and from our perspective, what was the specific designation of the (non-NATO 125mm) APFSDS rounds – were they tungsten based or depleted uranium? Answers on a postcard or, ideally, a cable.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Yes, I made a mistake. Some press reports quoted US officials speculating that the cargo was ultimately headed for either Hamas or Hezbollah, but nothing in the cables indicates that.

      The reaction of the Syrian Foreign Minister implies the equipment was for the Syrian military: “Regarding the Monchegorsk, Muallim claimed the issue had been clouded because of differences in interpretation regarding whether UNSCR 1747 applied to all Iranian shipments or only to nuclear-related ones. … Launching into one of the few tirades of the morning session, Muallim argued the ship would not arrive in Syria. Why, Muallim asked, unable to contain himself, did the U.S. want Syria to negotiate with Israel from a state of ‘perpetual weakness.'”

      The reason Cyrpus emphasized UNIFIL was that it operated out of a port in Cyprus. I managed to conflate those two things. I have corrected the post.

  6. Allen Thomson (History)

    > Quotes from other cables shed a bit more light on the contents of the shipment, which included: “125 mm Gun APFSDS [Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilizing Discarded Sabot]” and “HEAT [High Explosive Anti-Tank]”

    As far as I know, those are primarily tank-against-tank munitions, where the first tank is of Soviet provenance/ design, likely a T-72. The second tank is — hmm, what might we suppose would make sense in the context? Going out on a limb, I’d guess that its name might begin with the letter מ.

    Which is to say I agree with John Schilling: the evidence looks like the hardware was indeed intended for the Syrian military, with the possibility of passing some of it on not to be excluded but not strongly suggested either.

  7. rwendland (History)

    Interesting slight change in the wording of UNSCR 1747 $5 given in the U.S. Diplomatic Cable (09STATE7877) talking points, compared to the original UNSCR 1747 itself:

    09STATE7877: “all states shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran using their flag vessels or

    UNSCR 1747 $5: “all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft”

    I find UNSCR 1747 $5 difficult to parse clearly. It seems unclear if it just bans Iran selling, and other states buying arms; or also encompasses other states nationals transporting to third parties as the U.S. believes. I’d have liked to have seen “to transport to third party states” added into the text to make it really clear.

    Here is the full text $5 and the bit of preamble that mentions arms, for others to ponder if the meaning is clear:

    “Determined to give effect to its decisions by … constrain[ing] Iran’s development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programmes, until such time as the Security Council determines that the objectives of these resolutions have been met,

    5. Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran;”

    I presume Syria argues that the preamble determines that the arms being talked about in $5 are just nuclear and missile related. Clarifications from international law experts most welcome.

  8. Yossi (History)

    Israel initially thought the ammunition was sent to Hamas. This is not unreasonable because the cargo contained a huge amount of ballistite packaged in various forms. Ballistite could improve the Gazan home made rockets by replacing the difficult to store mixture of sugar and chemical fertilizer used for propulsion. Ballistite is more more powerful and doesn’t emits smoke thus making the launching point more difficult to locate in real time. A short time after the cargo was seized we were told Hamas has managed to increase the range of its rockets. Maybe not all Iranian shipments were intended for Syria?

    Concerning the damage to the Cypriot navy note that the newly discovered huge gas field “Leviathan” is 7 miles inside the economic waters of Cyprus according to the usual international rules. Cyprus is said to have given up its rights for no apparent good reason in negotiations with another country that didn’t sign the relevant treaty (sounds familiar?). This happened after a public threat of using military force was made. The Cypriot navy suffering such a blow could probably prevent future inconvenience and thus contribute to world peace, a blessed purpose.

  9. rwendland (History)

    There’s a great before & after explosion photo (0.5m resolution) at:

    Notice how the power plant stack survived the explosion, as circular cross-section objects tend to do; still remarkable.