Iranian and Pakistani warships had planned their first ever rendezvous to take place in Port Sudan Friday, Nov. 30. It was rumored in Khartoum that the Pakistani Shashmir had docked Thursday carrying nuclear arms or nuclear-related equipment ready to meet two Iranian warships for joint naval drills on the Red Sea.
The United States put a stop to this plan at the last moment by threatening to call off the direct talks with Tehran that were scheduled to open Saturday, Dec. 1.
The naval exercise would have seen Iran collaborating for the first time in military activity with a nuclear power that would take place, moreover, close to the shores of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Parading the two Muslim powers in military partnership – one a nuclear power and Iran on the threshold of attaining nuclear arms – was an attempt by Tehran to leverage its position as a regional power when facing Washington at the negotiating table.
Responding to persistent reports of nuclear arms aboard the Pakistani vessel, the Port Sudan Director Sheiba Mohamed Babikir issued the following statement on Dec. 1: “There is no risk to the lives of citizens who want to visit the ships as all weapons will be secured.”
According to debkafile’s military and intelligence sources, Riyadh and Jerusalem warned the Obama administration separately last week that unless the Iranian-Pakistani maneuver was called off, action would be taken to prevent it, prompting Washington’s stiff message to Tehran that their nuclear talks were on the line unless it was cancelled.
Our sources disclose that Tehran climbed down and postponed the visit by its two warships to Port Sudan to a later date, Dec. 7. By then, the Pakistani vessel would have departed.
Since the US was not certain until the last minute how Tehran would act to the warning, it was decided to reschedule the first US-Iranian session from Saturday to another date this week.
Both have thrown a dense blanket of secrecy over the talks, their venue and the identities and ranks of their negotiating teams. The only hint that something of the kind was up was offered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday, Nov. 30, when she sad: “We are working on the G5-1 and making our willingness known that we are ready to have a bilateral discussion if they are ever ready to engage.”
A day earlier, Robert Wood, US delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, set March 1 as the deadline for Iran to deliver positive results, failing which, Washington would turn to the UN Security Council.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 567 out last Friday, Nov. 30, ran an exclusive review exploring the issues and prospects of the direct talks between the Obama administration and the Islamic regime headed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Extreme Saudi objections to these talks were set out in an article run by the royal mouthpiece, the London-based Ashark al-Awsat Monday, Dec. 3. Referring to Clinton’s remark, the paper’s editorial said:
“The problem with the current US administration is that the carpet merchants, i.e. the Iranians, understand full well that Washington is not trying to change what has already changed; rather it is seeking to coexist with the new status quo… Thus … Iran and the US will negotiate at our expense, i.e. at the expense of all those in the Middle East and of course the Gulf…This is the strategic Iranian goal; either to use a nuclear weapon to impose its influence or to use negotiations as a means to extend that influence, while America’s behavior in this regard is lax.”