A scandal that has recently erupted in concerning a private Israeli shipping and transport group Ofer Brothers that sold a tanker to via a well-known front company and has been transporting petroleum products to and from for a decade, heightens my suspicions that nothing is what it seems in the dirty world of geopolitics.
On the one hand, the Netanyahu government has been calling upon Washington to tighten anti- sanctions while on the other a company owned by ’s richest man the late Sami Ofer (he died on Thursday 2nd of June, aged 89) has been trading with for years while his ships have been regularly docking at ports.
Israeli officials have denied they knew what was going on. However, conspiracy theorists are having a field day after a discussion held by members of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on the issue was cut short by the Defence Ministry’s Security Chief who once served on the board of Ofer Brothers. Initially, the Ofer family asserted they had dealt with on ’s behalf but have since u-turned on that defense provoking speculation a deal has been done. Anyone who imagines that the Mossad and the Shin Bet have been in the dark for ten years must be naïve in the extreme and for all anyone knows the Ofer revelations could well be just the tip of the iceberg.
This echoes the Nahum Manbar controversy. He is an Israeli former IDF paratrooper who was accused of selling components used to make mustard gas and nerve gas to . He was imprisoned for 16 years in 1997 subsequent to a trial held closed doors. Author and former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky revealed Manbar’s connections with ’s security services while other insiders suggested used him as a fall guy when the transaction became known.
Manbar has always insisted his with the Iranians were blessed by the Israeli intelligence community and is none too pleased that the Ofers seem to be getting off lightly. “The establishment took revenge on me while they, the Ofer Brothers, have connections in government and nobody’s touching them,” he said.
Last week, Ynetnews reported that “- trade ties thriving” with “dozens of Israeli companies secretly engaging in relations with the Islamic Republic through third parties.” The article quotes the chairman of the Israeli-Arab Friendship Association Yehoshua Meiri saying, “Despite what is seen on the ground, the secret relations with total tens of millions of dollars a year…Even when harsh statements are made on both sides, business thrives. Relations with the colleagues are excellent and political statements are ignored.”
Just days before, Tehran’s Trade Ministry had to answer to exporters/importers who claimed Israeli apples and oranges were on sale in the country’s markets. It’s an open secret that buys marble, cashews and pistachios from while imports organic fertilizer, artificial hormones to boost milk production, irrigation pipes and seeds from .
How can that be you are probably asking yourself when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been relentlessly bashing since he took office? According to a recent article on Yedioth Ahronoth’s English-language website, “Ahmadinejad’s top advisor Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei stated three years ago that should have ‘friendly ties’ with the Jewish state, a statement that was supported by his boss.
In one of my recent columns, I suggested that the mutual enmity currently displayed between the US/ and could be part cinema, allowing Tehran to curry favor with the Arab world, to pinpoint as a threat to its existence in order to propagate its victim status – and America a pretext to maintain military bases in the region.
I highlighted that although Washington and Tehran have been ‘sworn enemies’ since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranians facilitated ’s bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and the Reagan administration shipped weapons to during the mid-1980s via . Following the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, offered to train Afghan troops under US supervision and urged Shiite Iraqis not to resist the US-led occupiers.
Moreover, despite ’s failure to ally the international’s community’s suspicions that may be developing nuclear weapons, anti- sanctions have been toothless compared to those that crippled Saddam’s Iraq for ten years. On this, President Barack Obama has been sending mixed messages. Last month, he vowed to keep up the pressure on but the question is ‘what pressure’? It certainly isn’t the same sort of pressure the White House heaped on President Mubarak and President Ben Ali to step-down.
The bottom line is that all three military powers consider the Middle East and the Gulf as their sphere of influence and wouldn’t shed a tear if the Arabs were to lose their grip on this strategically-positioned, oil and gas-rich region.
I would urge the GCC States leaderships to focus on the menacing dangers and pursue political and military independence; in particular, Egypt should resist Tehran’s self-serving overtures to normalize diplomatic relations. With the -Palestine peace process in its death throes, storms brewing over the ‘Arab spring’ and working to expand its influence, sitting on the fence and hoping for the best is no longer an option.