International

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Associated Press
The Indian Navy captures Somali pirates
in the Gulf of Aden.

Iran Latest to Join Fight Against Somali Pirates

December 22, 2008 10:29 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Iran has announced plans to send ships to fight Somali pirates, joining India, the U.S., and several other nations. China is reportedly considering a similar move.

International Efforts Grow

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Iran is now among several countries, including Russia, India, Great Britain and the United States, that are patrolling the waters off Somalia's 1,800-mile coastline for pirate attacks, CNN has reported.

With more governments sending ships to patrol the region, navies have reported some successes. Last week, an Indian ship took 23 alleged pirates into custody, the Associated Press reported.

The INS Mysore responded to a distress call from a ship called the MV Gibe. When it arrived it saw two boats chasing the Gibe. Indian troops boarded the alleged pirate ships and took them into custody, and seized a weapons cache.

In a separate incident, a German ship and its helicopter, answering a freighter’s distress call, successfully fended off an attack, according to AP.

However, the capture of Chinese vessels by Somali pirates last week has led China to contemplate adding its own warships to the growing international effort.

Fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has been difficult. The United States recently sought to take the fight against piracy one step further by drafting a resolution that would allow them to follow suspects into Somali territory.

Circulated among UN Security Council members, the resolution would require prior authorization from the Somali government and appears to indicate that naval monitors will not be enough to deter future attacks.

Piracy has spiked dramatically this year, with more than 100 vessels reporting attacks. A number of high-value ships are still in the hands of pirates, including a Ukrainian vessel carrying 30 tanks and a Saudi oil tanker valued at over $100 million.

According to The Guardian, it is widely known that the pirates reside along Somalia’s northeastern coast, but disputes over international law and jurisdiction have made it impossible for law enforcement agencies to travel there.

A solution to the pirate threat is further clouded by questions about what will happen to the Somali pirates should they be captured. Currently, Somalia lacks a functioning judicial system.

The U.S.-drafted resolution follows a year of efforts to curb piracy, including international military operations expanding into the Bay, a UN flotilla and a recent agreement with Kenya to hand over suspected pirates.

Frustrated with the failure to completely halt activity in the waters, some shipping companies have begun to explore alternative measures.

Pirates holding the aforementioned Saudi tanker have begun discussions with Michele Lynn Ballarin, an American business woman active in the reconstruction of Somalia, after official talks continued to break down.

Other companies have sought out the services of private security firms in lieu of international law enforcement agencies.

Opinion & Analysis: More needs to be done about pirates

Reacting to the UN resolution, The Harvard Crimson wrote that, although it was a good start, in order to combat such crimes in the future, the international community must become more involved in the broader stability of the region.

“The developed world must act to address not only the security concerns in the region, but also—and perhaps more importantly—the root of the problem: Somalia itself.”

One arguably positive aspect of the increased attention being paid to the East African nation is a renewed spotlight on Somalia’s fragile domestic stability. On Townhall.com, author Diana West implored her readers to “Pay Attention to the Somalis.”

Background: Pirate fascination hits fever pitch

Anchored by ongoing standoffs between seized high-value vessels and international law enforcement and encompassing naval forces from Russia to India to the United States, the ongoing pirate narrative has invaded virtually every corner of the media landscape.

Despite the occasional lull in activity, the recent capture of a Ukrainian ship carrying a fleet of tanks and a Saudi oil tanker valued at $100 million have kept international audiences engrossed in the story.

Although sea piracy never fully disappeared—shipping lanes throughout Southeast Asia and around the Horn of Africa have been vulnerable for decades—the payload and brazenness of the latest hijackings have captured international curiosity in a way that few events still do. An undeniable spike in activity off the coast of Somalia over the last year has brought special attention to this area in particular. Just since October, pirates operating from Somali ports have attacked more than 30 vessels, taking 12 of them by force.

Public curiosity and press accessibility—in September, The New York Times conducted a phone interview with Somali pirates—have pushed media agencies and online personalities to explore every angle to the pirate drama, even when there is actually little to report.

As an example, an article published on Dec. 5 reported that Somali pirates had failed to successfully hijack a U.S. cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden.

Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report looked to the ongoing battle between international forces and pirates for lessons on how best to deal with the persistent threat of al Qaeda. “In fact, historians and legal experts suggest, the centuries-old fight against piracy could go a long way toward improving the fight against terrorism,” wrote Alex Kingsbury.

Fox News took the pirate-terrorism link in a different direction in their article, “Pirates: The New Face of Terrorism?” In the article, the author suggests that “While we know of no specific ties to terrorism, one has to ask why these Somalian pirates have such well orchestrated plans.”

Reference: Pirate alerts

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