May 13, 2022News / Weapons TraffickingAs of May 2022, Operation IRINI (or EUNAVFOR MED IRINI) has been in effect in the Mediterranean Sea for just over two years, having been initiated on March 31st, 2020. The operation has attracted international criticism, and nations around the Mediterranean Sea are divided over whether it should continue. But what is Operation IRINI? What are its aims? And are they achievable? Background In 2011, the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East, inspiring revolutions in many Arab-majority nations, and Libya was no exception. Diverse factions arose to oppose Muammar Gaddafi’s authoritarian rule, and the first of two bloody civil wars began. Before long, governments of other nations started supplying weapons to their favored factions, inflaming the situation further. In response, the UN announced an arms embargo still in force today. The First Libyan Civil War ended in the same year, giving way to an uneasy peace. However, tensions remained high, with sporadic fighting continuing until 2014, when the violence escalated and the Second Libyan Civil War was officially declared. As the crisis continued, a refugee crisis began to grow, human trafficking and fuel smuggling became rife, and it was apparent that the arms embargo was having largely no effect. By 2020, the crisis was having a significant impact on the EU, with waves of refugees exploited by human traffickers crossing the Mediterranean Sea. As the war continued with no end in sight, EU leaders met to discuss solutions. On March 31st, 2020, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EU Commission, announced a new initiative, known as EUNAVFOR MED IRINI, or Operation IRINI. Operation IRINI’s Aims and Resources Operation IRINI was announced as a “CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) crisis management operation in the Mediterranean Sea” and given the key goal of enforcing the UN arms embargo with the hope of bringing the long-running conflict to an end. Secondary tasks were to be: Prevention of fuel smuggling Building capacity for the Libyan coast guard and providing training ;Supporting the battle against human trafficking networks. These goals were to be achieved using a combination of naval and aerial military assets from EU nations, including France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal, with varying degrees of contribution from each. This would include frigates, submarines, long-range surveillance aircraft, small patrol vessels and light aircraft. Operation IRINI was only one aspect of a more integrated EU approach, including other EU civilian support missions. France : one of the main actors Although seven nations were providing the resources for Operation IRINI, the bulk of the commitment fell to Italy, Greece and France. The current task force includes three frigates, one each from Italy (ITS Grecale), Greece (HS Themistokles) and France (FS Blaison). French MPA regularly provides air support to the operation. The French government has retained a keen interest in Operation IRINI, with two members of the National Defence and Armed Forces Commission of the French Parliament visiting the IRINI Joint Operation Centre in Roma in December 2021. The Rear Admiral Stefano Turchetto in charge of Operation IRINI was quoted at that time as saying that France was the “backbone of the operation, protecting the European interests, providing deterrence and at the same time promoting stability and security in the Mediterranean Basin”. On May 2022, the Commander-in-chief of French Forces in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Vice Admiral Gilles Boidevezi, visited the Headquarters to share with the Operation Commander their view and perspectives on several topics including Security Challenges and new Maritime Scenarios for the region. France reinforced also its leading position on staff level, holding the position of Deputy Operation Commander (currently Rear Admiral Muizon). Results Since the beginning of operation, EUNAVFOR MED IRINI has monitored more than 800 suspected flights, 25 airports and 16 ports. 280 friendly approaches have been conducted and 22 boarding executed with one ship diversion. Furthermore, 36 special reports to the UN panel of experts on Libya have been provided. Thanks to all his efforts, arms smuggling was clearly slowed down in Libya. Criticism Operation IRINI has not been without its critics by countries sharing different interests and points of view on Libyan conflict. The government of Malta pulled out of the operation in May 2020, complaining that not enough was being done to help with the country’s immigration problem. Russia and Turkey also raised concerns, claiming that the operation was not neutral and was, in fact, supporting factions in Libya seen as friendly to the EU. Conclusion If Operation IRINI seems to be a success in terms of its mission goals, Human trafficking remains a problem in the Mediterranean Sea, although not at its peak levels seen in 2020. It’s probable that the reduction in arms smuggling helped to end the Second Libyan Civil War, although the security environment in the country remains volatile. Unfortunately, the support for the Libyan Coast Guard has been terminated due to hostility from Libyan authorities towards Operation IRINI’s mandate. For now, EUNAVFOR MED IRINI continues its mission of peace in the Mediterranean Sea. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
February 9, 2022News / Piracy / Weapons TraffickingEU Flag The Mediterranean Sea has always been a strategic maritime trade and transportation region. However, the numerous islands and peninsulas in the area have made it convenient for smugglers to operate. But, the rise of terrorist groups in North Africa has only compounded the problem. The European Union has developed a maritime security strategy that focuses on cooperation between member states and NATO to combat these threats. This strategy is implemented through various naval exercises and operations, such as Irini and Sea Guardian. The on-going deployment of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and the Task Force 473, composed of several European ships and sailors, is a new step for a coordinate European action in the Mediterranean Region. Thus, with tensions high in the region, all actors must work together to maintain security in the Mediterranean Sea. Read on to learn more about the maritime security strategy. Maritime Issues Regarding Security in the Mediterranean Region The Mediterranean Sea is a strategic region for maritime transportation, with significant volumes of oil and gas passing through its waters. Therefore, the security of this area is essential to ensure the free flow of traffic and trade. However, several issues are affecting maritime security in the Mediterranean that require attention: Maritime terrorism can take multiple forms: criminal activity at sea (e.g., drug trafficking or human smuggling) or terrorist attacks on commercial vessels such as ferries and cruise ships. Drug and weapon smuggling is also a security concern for many countries as illegal substances can finance criminal organizations involved with terrorist activities. The second issue refers to pirate attacks that have been recorded off the Libyan coast following the 2011 revolution. There are also concerns about boats being used by terrorists to transit across national borders undetected – this could pose significant risks if they plan an attack inside another country’s waters. European Union Maritime Security Strategy The European Union has developed a maritime security strategy to protect its interests in the Mediterranean Sea. Currently, the French-led Task Force 473 deployed in Mediterranean Sea is the result of EU Members defense partnership, which will strengthen interoperability and coordination between military assets in region. One of the strategy’s main goals is to improve cooperation between EU member states and NATO allies. Besides, the approach focuses on drug and weapon smuggling, piracy, and maritime terrorism. The following are the strategies that have been put in place to achieve this goal: The Irini operation– was a naval operation conducted by the European Union to disrupt illegal arms trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea. The procedure was launched in March 2020, as a successor of Sophia Operation started in 2015, and is still on-going. The main goal of the Irini operation is to stop weapons from being smuggled to terrorist groups in Libya. The process managed to seize over 6000 firearms. Below are some benefits of the Irini operation to maritime security: The procedure showed that the European Union could conduct complex naval operationsIt improved cooperation between EU member states and NATO alliesIt disrupted illegal arms trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea Naval exercises– are a vital part of improving maritime security. They allow navies from different countries to train together and learn their procedures. This makes it easier for them to cooperate during real-world operations. The following are some examples of naval exercises that have been conducted recently: A multinational naval exercise called Poseidon 2018 was held in May of this year. The exercise involved ships and aircraft from 19 countries, including Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey. In June of the same year, the United States and France held a joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise involved the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. In addition, the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) conducted an anti-piracy exercise off the coast of Somalia in September of this year. The exercise involved ships from 23 countries, including Spain, Italy, and Portugal. The cooperation between EU and NATO The collaboration between EU and NATO is crucial for ensuring maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea. NATO provides valuable resources and expertise, while the European Union offers several significant benefits, such as unity and cohesion. As an example, many European Union members, acting also as NATO allies, participate to Sea Guardian, a maritime security operation aimed at protecting vessels from piracy and terrorism threats in the Mediterranean Sea. The Sea Guardian operation was launched in October 2017 and involved sailors from several NATO members such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece or Spain. This week, three carrier strike groups from USA (USS Harry S. truman), France (FS Charles De Gaulle) and Italy (ITS Cavour) conducted joint activities to improve interoperability at the highest level. Overall, the European Union has put several strategies to improve maritime security for the Mediterranean Sea. However, more needs to be done to ensure that naval security remains a priority in the region. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
November 2, 2021Human-Trafficking / Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / News / Weapons TraffickingEastern Mediterranean flashpoint Eastern Mediterranean is a crossroads between continents. The complexity of the region and tensions between countries make the area a dangerous flashpoint. All kind of destabilization and maritime issues monitored seem to be linked to one actor, the president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Where is Eastern Mediterranean? Eastern Mediterranean is a meeting point between Southeast Europe, Western Asia and Northeast Africa. Sometimes considered as the cradle of humanity, it is now composed of several countries: Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Libya. The region has been a crossroads for cultural, economic and political exchanges over millennia. Nevertheless, the geopolitical situation made this maritime region a flashpoint based on maritime issues and the disrespect of international law, agreement and convention. A transit route for migrants and refugees The civil war in Syria, started in 2011, has been a major change for countries relationships. The flow of refugees, crossing Turkey to Greece through the Aegean Sea led to a European Union (EU)-Turkey joint action plan in 2015. The agreement was that every person arriving irregularly to the Greek Islands would be returned to Turkey. In exchange, EU would take one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian returned from Greece. However, it became for the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan a way to conduct a hybrid warfare against EU. Turkish government threated several times the Member States to “open the gates” to migrants into Europe in case of disagreement (such as what is now observed in Belarus). With the return of Talibans in Afghanistan, it is expected to have an increase of refugees trying to cross the sea through the Aegan route but also from Syria or Lebanon to Cyprus. The last route is getting more and more used, especially because of the strong economic and social crisis hitting Lebanon after the dramatic explosion in the port in Beirut in 2020. Oil and gas dispute In the early 1970s, exploration discovered oil and gas fields in south of Cyprus. But the invasion of the island by Turkey in 1974 froze the possibility of exploitation. Then, two large natural gas fields were discovered in the region: Leviathan in 2010 in Israel Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and Zohr in 2015 in Egypt EEZ. In 2018, tensions increased between Cyprus and Turkey when the Turkish foreign minister announced the intention to carry out gas exploration in Cyprus EEZ. Turkey sent several times exploration ship, such as RV Oruc reis, escorted by frigates creating huge concerns for EU, which Cyprus is a member States. In reaction, the European Council decided to suspend several negotiations. Egypt, which had an agreement with Cyprus to exploit some of its gas fields, reduced also its relations with Turkey. Arms trafficking from Turkey The last factor of destabilization in Easter Mediterranean is the arm trafficking from Turkey to Libya. Libya faced a civil war since 2011 and the United Nations Security Council voted the Resolution 1973 to impose an arms embargo over the country. To enforce this resolution, mainly ineffective, the European Union launch in March 2020 the operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI, using aerial, satellite and maritime assets. In that framework, the EU linked the merchant vessel Cirkin, now re-named Guzel, to transport military material to Libya between May and June 2020. According to the press agency Reuters, the ship was escorted by three Turkish vessels, preventing all cargo inspection. In September 2020, EU imposed sanctions on the Turkish shipping company Avrasya Shipping accused of breaking the U.N. embargo on Libya. The president Erdogan never recognised to conduct this kind of operation. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
August 6, 2021Miscellaneous / News / Weapons TraffickingLoitering munitions is not only a land problem. Maritime world must take seriously the issues caused by this kind of weapon in order to preserve the freedom of navigation. The recent attack in July on the oil tanker Mercer Street, off Omani Coast, is an example of problems led by local tension in the area of one of the most important maritime route. What happened ? According to the United Kingdom Trade Operations, the oil tanker Mercer Street, operated by the British company Zodiac Maritime but owned by an Israeli citizen, was sailing 152 nautical miles northeast of the port Duqm (Omani) when he was attacked by a drone, apparently a loitering munitions. Two crew members, a British and a Romanian citizen, died in the attack. The US Navy was called to rescue the ship and the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher escorted the tanker to the next harbour. Iran was accused by USA, UK and Israel to be responsible for the attack, even if Teheran denied these claims. Loitering munitions Known as a suicide drone or kamikaze drone, loitering munitions is a weapon which searches for targets in a specific area for some time. As an autonomous lethal weapon, this kind of drone enables fast reaction in a deny access area, which led to several discussion about international humanitarian law and ethical concerns. These drones may be as simple as an unmanned aerial vehicle with attached explosives or more complex such as IAI Harop, a purpose built munitions with on-board sensors and flight and control capabilities. Several countries are recorded as loitering munitions user, such as Iran, Israel or the USA. The proliferation of theses drones, and the relative low cost for some, is a global threat to maritime security because of their easy-use and efficiency against all kind of ships (even far from the coast). Several attacks in the region This attack is only one of many others which happened in Gulf of Oman for past years, especially in May and June 2019. In the past, ship faced several threats such as maritime mines, pirates, missiles or terrorist attack. The Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz, is the maritime route for liquefied natural gaz and oil from Middle-east producers. Over 2 400 oil tanker sailed through this area every year. If the freedom of navigation cannot be maintained in the area, likely due to the tension between USA and Iran, therefore all the international economy will be definitely impacted. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
May 21, 2021News / Weapons TraffickingA new violation of United Nations embargo in Libya happened last Tuesday with the delivery of 2 000 Turkish-made weapons. The 26th of February 2011, the Security Council of the United Nations voted the resolution 1973 which imposed an arms embargo on Libya because of the civil war. The aim of this resolution was to avoid the increase of civilian casualties with the obligation for the UN States Members to prevent the direct or indirect supply of all weaponry to Libya. Nevertheless, several countries continued to deliver military material, mostly motivated by personal interest in the region. The UN experts in Libya stated in their final report (8 March 2021) that the embargo still remains “totally ineffective”. The last violation was revealed by the tweeter account @Libya_OSINT which posted a seizure by Misrata Port Customs of 2 000 Turkish-made 9mm pistols hidden in a containerized shipment of clothes. Cargo ships are the main transport used to bring weapons in Libya. The European Union, which is directly concerned by Libyan issues, had already imposed in 2020 sanctions on a Turkish shipping company accused of breaking the UN arms embargo. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
April 13, 2021News / Weapons TraffickingFear of a maritime conflict is increasing in Arabian Sea. The 6th of April, Iran’s foreign ministry reported an attack on the Iranian freighter “Saviz” in the Red Sea. The vessel was hit below the waterline around 06:00 local Time, near the coasts of Djibouti. Its origins and causes are still under investigation. Previously, the 25th of March, the Israeli-owned container ship “Lori” was struck by a missile attack off the Oman’s coast. According to Israeli media reports, no crew members were injured.These incidents are part of a series of maritime events blamed on Israel or Iran.In fact, mid-march, Tehran suspected Israel of being responsible for the attack on its ship “Iran Shar-e-Kord” in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship would be owned by a company blacklisted by Washington accusing it of transporting material linked to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.Conversely, Tehran has been accused of being behind an “environmental attack” caused by the Iranian vessel “Emerald”. The vessel would deliberately pollute the Israeli coastline on February 1st and 2nd. In addition to that, Tehran would also be responsible for the mysterious explosion of the Israeli transport ship Helios Ray while sailing in the Arabian Sea on February 26.The Wall Street Journal reported that since the end of 2019, Israel would have targeted a dozen ships smuggling of illicit goods and weapons trafficking to Syria.This maritime conflict is definitely a dangerous game play by two regional protagonists with the risk of triggering a flash-over in the whole Middle – East. Like this:Like Loading... [...]