Below the 10° North

Maine Piracy used to be a thing of the past and on silver screen but thanks to the imperialism of Western powers and prevailing poverty it is now revived as some people in certain African countries are left with no option but to resort into piracy for the

The crystal blue waters of the Persian Gulf supply a significant portion of the world’s oil which has to pass by the Gulf of Aden - a vital waterway for international trade - to reach four corners of the globe.

The fastest route for tens of thousands of vessels travelling around the world every year, the Gulf of Aden has been the scene of unrest over the recent years, as pirates reemerge and target cargo ships.

Due to Iran’s strategic location, the country’s vessels are subject to the constant threat of the pirates.

Iranian Navy has been triumphant in defeating the attacks as the country’s intrepid soldiers have not only saved Iranian vessels but also international ships.

In one of its recent operations on April 6th, 2012, the Iran successfully rescued a Chinese commercial ship.

Soundbite: at around noon on May 18th, 2012, we were informed that a Chinese ship had been hijacked by pirates within the patrolling area of Operation Velayat II.

Soundbite: First, the unit thought it was hardly possible. Considering our distance from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s coastline and the location of the pirates, it would be almost impossible.

Soundbite: Our operating unit moved towards the position at the fastest speed possible. After reaching the Chinese ship, we didn’t receive any communications while the ship was moving away from the region.

Soundbite:The commando teams were also accompanying the forces of the Iranian warship Shams heading to the region.

Soundbite:The ship was successfully identified. The pirates had taken full control of the ship.

Soundbite:they threatened to kill the hostages and crew if our ship got close to them. The missile ship “Falakhan” responded by emphasizing that the pirates would face serious consequences if any of the crew got injured.

Soundbite:when we realized our warnings were not effective, we took action. We fired warning shots to communicate to the pirates that we would not allow them to take the ship out of our territory.

Soundbite:through calls they made, the pirates had demanded a $5mn ransom from the Chinese.

Soundbite:after firing the first round of shots, we warned them that they had half an hour to leave the Chinese ship.

Soundbite:upon our approach, they fired at us using RPGs and light weapons.

Soundbite:they angrily threw five of the Chinese crew members over board. But, they didn’t know we had the upper hand. We took a turn and saved all five from water safe and sound.

Soundbite:After the Chinese crew was brought on board our ship, I spoke to them as the interpreter.

Soundbite:The Chinese crew members said that there were nine pirates armed with two RPGs, four Kalashnikovs, and four or five 0.45-caliber guns.

Soundbite:after verifying the information, we carefully moved close to the pirated vessel. Realizing that we had full control over the ship and that every action they took could be detected by our telecommunication staff and facilities, they gathered on the bow of the ship and surrendered.

Soundbite:they were not able to carry on and announced they would surrender. Primary measures were taken by the missile ship and the search-and-seizure team was ready. The crew was fully equipped and moved towards the ship, seized it, and took important parts under control. They arrested all the nine pirates and took them to the missile ship.

Soundbite:there are nine people.

Soundbite:we had the pirates gather on the bow of the ship. They followed our orders, put their hands up and surrendered.

Soundbite:Our seizure team which was on the Chinese ship, with the help of other escorting units form Region I, took the ship to the Abbasi Harbor safe and sound. So, the unit was delivered to their respective government.

Soundbite:Admiral HAbibollah Sayyari, Commander of Iran’s navy

With this recent operation which was conducted below 10 degrees latitude, outside our Navy’s patrolling region, we proved that we are able to protect our interests no matter where they are endangered.

Only six days after the first operation, the second Ra’ad Operation led to the capture of a pirate leader, Mohamed Garad, also known as Carlos the Jackal. Among his other crimes, Carlos had haunted the commercial ships passing through this route for many years.

Soundbite:Around 3 a.m., the operation started with the code “Ya Abolfazel El-Abbas”. Our supporting forces opened fire.

Soundbite:we’re getting close to the pirates. They’ve taken full control over the ship and have taken hostages. We’re going to save both the ship and hostages

Soundbite:When it was dawn, we were placed in a position that the pirates couldn’t see from above.

Soundbite:I guess they can’t handle it anymore. This time it is over. May God help you.

Soundbite:we conducted the operation on every floor.

Soundbite:Can you see the crew members? The Captain said they were all handcuffed on the bridge of the ship. Most probably, they aren’t on different decks. But, a few people could be seen through the portholes. They may be crew members.

Soundbite:we couldn’t get on the commander’s bridge of the ship from inside the cabins. So, we had to use the emergency staircase.

Soundbite:We deployed guards on every floor and took all necessary security measures.

Soundbite:Their last resort was their hostages whom they wanted to use as human shields.

Soundbite:don’t leave your position!

Soundbite:with this tactic, they revealed their position and we realized where they were.

Soundbite:with careful planning, the pirates were led out of the cabins and were arrested.

Carlos – who had previously served in the British army, organized a group of Somali men cruising the international waters of the region, but why?

Soundbite: Reza Mir Taher, Center for Strategic Studies

The ongoing civil war along with the dissolution of Somalia’s Navy led to an influx of foreign fishing ships to Somali waters as well as dumping of large quantities of toxic waste off the country’s coasts. Therefore, Somalia’s fishing industry ceased to exist and the fishermen, increasingly facing poverty, formed spontaneous groups and the phenomenon of piracy started.

To succeed in their operations, the pirates use automatic weapons, speed boats, and modern applications. But, did they plan their own attacks or were they mere players in a game of an outside mastermind?

Soundbite: Reza Mir Taher, Center for Strategic Studies

A number of Somali immigrants, especially in Canada, provide these pirates with intelligence, equipment, and the necessary logistics.

It is not only the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and the Sea of Oman that are targeted by pirates. This phenomenon has now reached East Asia, Indonesian waters, and the Malacca Strait as piracy is expanding.

At least a third of the international trade is conducted in the North Indian Ocean as there are four major international waterways in this region -- the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the Malacca Strait, the Bab El-Mandeb Strait, and the Suez Canal. This strategic feature has turned this region into a great concern for neighboring countries.

Soundbite: Admiral HAbibollah Sayyari, Commander of Iran’s navy

Our interests are these commercial shipping routes. We witnessed that our interests were threatened in seas and our commercial ships and oil tankers were at risk of being attacked by pirates. Moreover, the IMO asked any country with effective military capabilities for their cooperation. So, the Islamic Republic of Iran was among the first countries that took action and deployed its forces in the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy.

In 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1838 which calls upon countries “with vessels and military aircraft operating in the area” to protect the international waters.

Along with other countries, Iranian Navy also took up this cause. However, this was not Iran’s first operation in the international waters. On February 18th 2011, the Navy headed to the Suez Canal and in the following year Iran’s Jamaran Destroyer passed through the canal on February 18th, 2012.

Soundbite: Admiral HAbibollah Sayyari, Commander of Iran’s navy

We don’t measure the Navy’s might by its performance in fighting piracy or maritime terrorism. The Navy is quite strong. With its submarines, destroyers, missile ships, flying equipment, different missile systems, and expert staff, the Navy’s might cannot be determined by how it fights a handful of pirates.

Pirates have caused lots of damage to shipping companies and this issue has incurred heavy costs on international insurance companies.

Soundbite: Reza Mir Taher, Center for Strategic Studies

Shipping companies and other relevant institutions are estimated to incur between $10bn and $12bn. Moreover, the piracy phenomenon has now turned into an industry with an estimated income of $5bn to $9bn a year.

Iranian officials say this issue has become an excuse for foreign military forces to operate in this region.

Soundbite: Admiral HAbibollah Sayyari, Commander of Iran’s navy

coordination and cooperation, we can easily provide security in the region because we have mutual interests and only those with actual mutual legitimate interests can truly cooperate with each other. That’s why we stress there’s no need for presence of foreign forces.

The fast growing global community needs to effectively use the international waters. A country with a stronger presence can play a more important role in major political interactions.

Iran says that the strategic location of the country and its powerful presence in the regional and international waters carries the message of peace to the neighboring countries and a warning that the Islamic Republic is fully prepared to tackle any threats from the outside.

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