It has the makings of the opening sequence in an apocalyptic thriller. A ship enters the Gulf, carrying a secret, illicit cargo of munitions, bound for Iran from North Korea. The ship is seized by the United Arab Emirates, where authorities discover that instead of the oil boring equipment listed on the manifest, the cargo includes some 10 containers filled with rocket launchers, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and detonators.
The UAE seizes the cargo and notifies the United Nations Security Council. But for weeks, the public is told nothing about it – not by the UN, and not by Washington. The event remains cloaked in silence, the ship is sent on its way. Finally, an unnamed diplomat leaks the information to the Financial Times, and the story starts to emerge…
Except this is no fantasy. This is the latest news out of the web connecting totalitarian, nuclear North Korea with the messianic, terrorist-sponsoring, nuclear wannabe regime of Iran. And here we go again.
The story about this North Korean arms shipment broke August 29th in the FT, and in the short time since we have been hearing slightly more — but not nearly enough. This North Korean shipment underscores huge and troubling questions about what else is going on inside the tangled web of clandestine deals with which the world’s tyrannies are busy these days — arming each other, supporting each other, and fueling their killing machines while western diplomats jaw-jaw about “engagement” and “mutual respect.”
And what a web it is. There’s a good summary of the scene on Hot Air . Both North Korea and Iran are under multiple UN sanctions, meant to stop their nuclear proliferation programs. This shipment offers a terrific example of how rogue countries try to dodge such sanctions. The ship was Australian, controlled by a French conglomerate, registered in the Bahamas, with the actual shipment, according to Reuters, “arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company.” So, in the middle of this clandestine arms deal is a crazy quilt of countries, businesses and legal jurisdictions, apparently involving Australia, France, the Bahamas, Italy and China — all with North Korea on one end and Iran on the other (Iranian authorities are now denying that this shipment was coming their way. These are the same folks who say their nuclear program is just for electricity). So, what else is out there right now, on the high seas, on land, or in the air, bearing false labeling and traveling the back alleys of global commerce?
The Wall Street Journal reports that “according to people familiar with the seizure,” there was “no nuclear-related material” found on board. Should we trust such unnamed sources? Who are they, and why are they unnamed? Recall the case of the secret nuclear reactor nearly completed by Syria, with North Korean help, modeled on North Korea’s Yongbyon complex. That reactor was destroyed two years ago, in September, 2007, by an Israeli air strike. But from a Bush administration intent at the time on trying to consumate a deal in which North Korea would denuclearize in exchange for loads of U.S. aid and concessions, the truth was covered up until the following April — leaving the public in the dark for more than half a year about the incriminating evidence of both North Korea’s proliferation racket, and its duplicity at the negotiating table.