Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Where has this ship gone?

The Telegraph seems to have gotten the majority of the stories regarding the Israeli airstrike and they add to this story today with the disappearance of a ship named Al Hamed. The ship was a North Korean flagged ship, but struck it's colors to raise up a South Korean flag as she moved towards the Syrian port of Tartous. Since it off-loaded it's cargo, it seems to have disappeared:

A suspicious North Korean freighter that re-flagged itself as South Korean before off-loading an unknown cargo at the Syrian port of Tartous is at the centre of efforts today to investigate Israel's recent airstrike on Syria.

An Israeli on-line data analyst, Ronen Solomon, found an internet trace for the 1,700-tonne cargo ship, Al Hamed, which showed the vessel started to off-load what Syrian officials categorised as "cement" on Sept 3.

This was three days before Israeli jets attacked a site in the north eastern desert of Syria, not far from its border with Iraq.

Since leaving Tartous, one of Syria's main ports on the Mediterranean, the ship's trace has disappeared and it is not known whether western intelligence agencies are tracking the vessel.

"I became suspicious after the first reports from Syria about the attack so I traced all traffic into Syrian ports in the days prior to the incident," Mr Solomon said.

"There were five ships but the interesting one was the one with a connection to North Korea - the Al Hamed."

He said he cross-referred to other maritime databases to establish the ship was not a regular visitor to the Mediterranean but had come through the Suez Canal in late June.

It had registered itself for the Suez transit as a South Korean vessel but Mr Solomon said this was standard procedure for North Korean ships seeking to avoid international constraints on North Korea.

Records showed the vessel docked at Tartous on July 28 before going back to sea and then returning to the port on Sept 3. "Since then there is no trace so I have no idea if she has gone up into the Black Sea or is still in the Mediterranean or whatever," Mr Solomon said.

So why would a ship that was supposedly carrying cement for Syria change her colors to avoid detection? “Targeted” sanctions include an embargo on military and technological materials and luxury goods, as well as a set of financial sanctions, but nothing about cement or other mundane trade exports. So again, why the change in flag if the North Korean vessel has nothing to hide?

We do believe there was some shady business going on between North Korea and Syria. The likeliest answer to the puzzle was nuclear tech and materials, but for that to be believed we have to accept Israel's and Turkey's word for it. (It has been revealed the Turkey did give the Israelis some information which led to this raid.) Don't get me wrong here. I do believe that Israel thought they had a serious problem on their hands, and more than likely they did have a problem. We should be thanking them for taking care of it instead of complaining about how they acted unilaterally.

With a change in ownership discovered, it's possible this ship will never be seen in a Syrian port again, unless renamed. The Israelis discovered something out about the ship, but the details still remain sketchy, and the Israelis aren't talking about it.

Publius II


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