Feb 18, 2011

Middle East: Conflicting Reports on Whether Iranian Warships to Pass Through Suez Canal

Chris SchangBy Chris Schang
The Rapture Report

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In a sign that tensions are mounting in the Middle East amidst the recent revolutions in various Middle East countries, there are reports that Iran wants to send two warships through the Suez Canal in order to travel onward to Syrian ports. The news reports are conflicting in that some are reporting that the warships will not pass through the Suez Canal while others say that Iran has said they will. The Iranian warships going through the Suez Canal is seen by the West and Israel as a "provocation" that has the potential to cause trouble. Especially when one realizes that Russia will also be docking warships in the near future, if not already, at the Syria ports. This should be of extreme interest to Bible prophecy students as these are the two main leaders of the Ezekiel 38-39 coalition that tries to invade Israel from the north.

Looking at the news reports, lets see what the various reports are saying and then look into what all this could mean for the region. The Jerusalem Post news website is reporting that the Iranian Navy has submitted documents requesting permission for the two warships to traverse the Suez Canal. The Jerusalem Post article reports:

Two Iranian naval vessels have submitted a request to transit the Suez Canal, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said Thursday. Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Egyptian authorities have received the request to grant the vessels passage, while a Suez Canal official said the Defense Ministry would process the application.

In Tehran, Iran's official English-language Press TV cited an Iranian naval official saying the two warships are to pass through the canal. The official said Tehran was in contact with Egypt about the ships. Earlier, a canal official had said the Iranians had withdrawn a request to transit the waterway, without giving an explanation for the application's withdrawal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
As we can see here the article says that the applications had been submitted for the passing of the two warships through the Egyptian waterways, but the confusing part is that it says later that the Iranians withdrew the requests. However, there have been some other news reports that continue to repeat the fact that Iran does intend to have the warships pass through the Suez Canal on the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

A report coming from the Israel National News website reports that at the last minute the Iranian ships will not be allowed to enter the Mediterranean Sea. The INN article reports:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned against bellicose Iranian provocation yesterday, and today Egypt prevented the ships from entering the Suez Canal. Speaking yesterday at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned in ominous terms of Iran’s plans to fulfill its long-time goal of gaining a foothold in the Mediterranean Sea, which borders Israel.

“Tonight,” he said, “two Iranian warships are to pass through the Suez Canal [separating the Sinai from the rest of Egypt and leading northward to the Mediterranean – ed.] on their way to Syria. This is something that has not happened for many years. It is a provocation that proves that Iran’s self-confidence and chutzpa are increasing every day. This follows [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad’s visit to southern Lebanon and his ongoing belligerent statements against Israel.”

“The international community must understand,” Lieberman warned, “that Israel will not be able to ignore these provocations forever. Unfortunately, the international community has not showed willingness to deal with the Iranian provocations.”
While the Iranian warships were suppose to pass through the Suez Canal on Wednesday night they did not pass through. The reports are that the Iranian warships are still in the Red Sea and awaiting for instructions on whether to proceed or not. The latest news was that at the last minute the Iranian ships turned around and did not enter the Suez Canal. The INN news article went on to further report:
This morning, it was abruptly reported that Egyptian forces were not allowing the ships to pass. However, other reports stated that Iran turned the ships back on its own. Security sources who wished to remain anonymous told Israel Radio that Israel is monitoring the situation carefully, although it cannot prevent Iran from sailing through international waters.
Regardless of whether the Iranian ships pass through the Suez Canal or not remains to be seen. Only time will tell. However, it is as Israeli FM Lieberman noted an Iranian provocation to send the warships into the Mediterranean as they have been trying to get a foothold in that part of the region for quite some time. The Iranians are likely trying to see how far they can go with this "stunt" but it would not surprise me if Iran turned their ships around after being warned by Israel that they would take them out if they tried to cross. Whether that happened or not is pure speculation on my part, but it is unlike the Iranians to back down when they say they are going to do something. I think something had to give in the situation.

It was also reported in another news article elsewhere that the "deployment" for these two warships was to be for a year at the Syrian ports. This shows that the Iranians are indeed trying to step into this area of the region and establish a presence as Israel suggested. An Iranian presence in the Mediterranean would not be a good thing. This would likely provoke more flotillas trying to break through to Gaza under "Iranian warship" escort. This could easily cause a confrontation between Israel and Iran. As well as destabilize the entire region. I think as unrest continues in the Middle East, we will see more attempts by Iran to see how far they can go in the region before hitting red lines in the sand, or in this case the red lines in the water.

With mounting pressure continuing on Iran over it's nuclear program, we have to recognize that there is a potential by the Iranians to stir up trouble in the region to deflect pressure from their nuclear program. And this deflection of pressure could turn into something big. With the prophecies of Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39 still to be fulfilled, it is quite possible that the stage is being set for these scenarios to take place. As I mentioned earlier in this article, only time will tell for sure what will happen. So this is a good reason for students of Bible prophecy to keep watching the region as it continues to gather steam that will eventually need to be released somehow. Stay tuned!!

Related Links
Israel on high alert for Iranian warships' Suez transit. Kharg brings missiles - DEBKAfile
Egypt agrees to let 2 Iranian vessels transit Suez Canal - Jerusalem Post
Oil prices rise on Egypt's decision to let two Iranian ships transit the Suez Canal - Agenzia Giornalistica Italia
Psalm 83 or Ezekiel 38 - Which is the Next Middle East News Headline? - BPB (Bill Salus)
Egypt to let Iranian warships through Suez Canal - CNN
Iran is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Suez Canal - Telegraph