Iranian warships sailing through Suez poses prickly decision for Egypt

Iran has submitted an official request for two of its warships to sail through the Suez Canal, an Egyptian official told CNN Thursday, in a move that puts Egypt’s new military regime in a prickly position with Israel.

The post-Hosni Mubarak caretaker government must decide whether to give a green light to the Iranian warships, believed to be the first that would sail through the Suez since the Islamic republic’s 1979 revolution.

The Egyptian official told CNN that permission will likely be granted. But Egypt might find itself in muddy water over the Suez.

The canal is an internal body of water and as such, Egypt has sovereignty over it. But Egypt also is bound by the 1976 Camp David Accords, which guaranteed the right of free passage by ships belonging to Israel and all other nations on the basis of the Constantinople Convention of 1888. Before that, Egypt did not allow Israeli ships to sail through the canal.

Last week, Egypt’s military government said it would honor all its international treaties. That would include Camp David.

Now it finds itself in the position of allowing ships belonging to the sworn enemy of their peace treaty partner to sail through.

“This is awkward — at a minimum,” said David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Schenker said the Iranian want a frigate — the Alvand — and a military supply ship — the Kharg … >>>

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