The Iran’s Revolutionary Guards power move on the Suez Canal is managed differently. Whereas the Iranian corps established a strong presence on Oman’s Musandam Peninsula for control of all the shores of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, they are working with proxies and international smuggling rings to establish their Suez route.
1. A small group of RGs marine and intelligence officers is mingling with the inhabitants of towns and villages on the banks of the Suez Canal, as well as the Egyptian and Sudanese coasts of the Gulf of Suez, to recruit locals employed in the Suez Canal Authority. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources report the Iranian officers are interested in particular in the Egyptian operators of the Suez Canal installations, Egyptian and Sudanese port workers, ferry operators, fishermen, marine police and Egyptian sailors.
2. They are establishing partnerships with international smuggling networks which prey on the canal’s traffic. High-quality Iranian intelligence on the movements of ships and their freight raises them in stature over the Egyptian Canal Authority in the eyes of the inhabitants.
3. Iran has put all the smuggling rings of the Gulf of Suez and Red Sea on monthly retainers plus commission on smuggled goods: Sudanese networks, Bedouin tribes ranging between Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sinai and the Mediterranean coast up to Alexandria.
The Revolutionary Guards smuggling system therefore promises the smooth transfer of any kind of merchandize, material or weapons from the Persian Gulf through the Suez Canal and Red Sea and back and makes sure Iran is well supplied in all circumstances.
The Egyptian government knows what is going on. Intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman told US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice as much when they meet in Amman on Feb. 20 at the round table of US and Arab intelligence chiefs (reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 290 of Feb. 23: Rice Chairs a Pivotal US-Arab Intelligence Summit).
In fact, he confessed candidly to Rice that the Suez Canal zone had slipped out of the control of Egypt’s security and intelligence and was now dominated by Iranians. To fill this big black security hole, Egypt is short of the necessary military, intelligence and financial resources, he confided. Iranian smuggling rings are also used by al Qaeda.
According to some DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, General Suleiman suggested only the Americans were capable of ousting Iranian smuggling rings of the Suez Canal region by diverting to the task some of the US naval units securing the flow of supplies and fuel to US forces in Iraq through the Aqaba Gulf to the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Links to Balkan crime gangs through Bosnian Muslims
He is even quoted by some sources as suggesting the US Navy make a start by undertaking to secure the most smuggler-ridden stretch of Suez water from the southern oil town of A-Tur to Ras Muhammad. Additional stretches of the canal and the Gulf of Suez could be tended to later.
This is the first time Egypt has offered to transfer responsibility for the defense of the vital Suez Canal waterway to an outside power – and with good reason.
The three large Suez Canal container ports of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez have fallen under clandestine Iranian control. Iranian officers are present in Hurghada just south of the point where the Suez Canal flows into the Gulf of Suez, and Ras Banas, near the Egyptian-Sudanese border.
Further south, on the Sudanese coast, Iranian smugglers are ensconced on the Siyal Islands and Halaib port.
They command two primary smuggling routes: one, originating in Iran, heads through the Musandam Peninsula of Oman and on to Yemeni or Sudanese ports. The second starts in the northwest at Podgorica, Montenegro’s port on the Adriatic, and connects to the Mediterranean and Suez Canal.
In Yemen, the contraband is handed to the smuggling rings based on Sudan who pass it on to Egypt.
Vast container warehouses are hidden in villages and coves along the Gulf of Suez and the canal, their contents numbered and bearing official documentation.
It is all forged by bribed Canal Authority officials.
The containers are in fact brought to shore by a fleet of small motorized dinghies which dart out to mid-canal and pick up them up as they are dropped overboard by designated cargo vessels.
The route to and from Montenegro’s Adriatic port is operated mainly by mafia networks in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia. The RGs’ go-betweens with these crime gangs are Bosnian Muslims, old comrades of Revolutionary Guards units which reached the Balkans in the 1990s’s and fought in the Bosnia-Herzegovina civil war.
These Balkan veterans have been on Tehran’s payroll for 12 years and now run the smuggling networks spread out from Europe to the Suez Canal.