Peter’s Atlantic Round-Up

02.02.12

Categorie: Atlantic Round-Up, Europe, France, India, Peter Vine, Royal Navy, U.K. |
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HMS Dauntless. Wikimedia photo.

HMS Dauntless. Wikimedia photo.

by PETER VINE

United Kingdom
Despite the cuts, the drumbeat of operations rolls on. In addition to the previously announced dispatching of Type 45 Destroyer HMS Daring to the Persian Gulf to join the international flotilla already there, the Foreign Office released a rather hurried notification to the press that Daring’s sister ship, HMS Dauntless, would be sailing south to the Falkland Islands to relieve the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose.

Daring and Dauntless are currently the two most formidable ships in the Royal Navy’s fleet with stealth features as well as a powerful radar and weapons package designed specifically to defeat aerial threats — including sea-skimming missiles such as Exocet. The ship will be conducting its duties for six months around the islands covering the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict in 1982.

Recently, tensions have been rising in the run up to the event with Prime Minister David Cameron and Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner trading barbs over the time-old question of who owns the islands. These tensions have been intensified due to a shipping embargo by Southern Cone trade bloc Mercosur, and increased oil and gas exploration in the waters around the islands.

As well as Dauntless, Britain has 1,500 servicemen stationed on the Falklands servicing four Eurofighter Typhoons, a C-130 Hercules and a VC-10 refueling aircraft. There are also constant rumors about a British submarine operating in the South Atlantic at all times.

Persian Gulf
As well as the Americans and British, the French have committed resources to the international flotilla currently in the Gulf. The French frigate La Motte-Picquet sailed through the contentious Strait of Hormuz with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll and the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.  The carrier was accompanied by a guided missile frigates and two destroyers.

The movement was designed to exercise freedom of the seas in the face of threats by Iran to close the strait to traffic. This would prevent oil from leaving the region to customers abroad and in turn could send oil prices spiking upwards. The idea of policing the seas around Iran in order to keep the sea lanes open, therefore, appears to be a wise one.

There are fears, however, that all this sailing around Iran may well provoke an accidental exchange leading to a wider conflict. Both sides have amassed large amounts of weaponry in a relatively small area. Meanwhile, the lack of adequate diplomatic channels between Iran and many of the flotilla members could mean that if an exchange of fire does happen, no nation will be quick enough to stop a wider conflict from breaking out.

India
Concluding what some could say is a stellar comeback, the French Rafale fighter system has bagged itself an $11 billion order to supply 126 fighter jets to the Indian air force. The French came out as the lowest and most attractive bidder for the Indians, who will now enter exclusive contract negotiations with Dassault. The news will come as a bitter blow for BAE systems and EADS who were seen as favorites for the competition, and who were relying on winning business in India in order to sustain production across Europe. BAE systems said as much when it laid off thousands of staff at its U.K. sites last year.

The order is a coup for the French defense industry. Apart from contests in Brazil and Malaysia, the continued era of austerity may see plane orders dry up rapidly.

Scandinavia
Two men were convicted in Norway of planning to blow up a Danish newspaper that printed controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Mikael Davud, a Chinese Norwegian, was accused of being the ringleader of the plot along with Sadek Saeed Bujak, originally from Iraqi Kurdistan. Their plan allegedly involved bombing the offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and prosecutors say the pair received bomb making training from Al Qaeda. Davud denied the charges and said he intended to bomb the Chinese embassy in retaliation for its treatment of the Chinese Uighur community. He also said he received training in Iran.

The convictions come at a time of rising extremism across Scandinavia. As well as Denmark fending off terrorist plots, Norway and Sweden have been the victims of terrorist attacks including the notorious rampage by right-wing fanatic Anders Breivik last year, which resulted in the deaths of 77 people.

Northern Ireland
It can be said the little steps are the most important ones. The impressive relationship between the Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson and his Sinn Fein counterpart, Martin McGuinness, has steered Northern Ireland back towards localized rule, mainstream Republicanism, cooperating with the police and further cooperation with the South.

And in a further development of this warm relationship, Robinson broke a long standing Unionist taboo by attending a Gaelic football match with McGuinness. Attending the Dr. McKenna Cup match between Derry and Tyrone, Robinson reportedly received a “warm reception.” McGuinness also plans to attend a Northern Ireland soccer international at its home stadium, Windsor Park, and intends to cheer for Northern Ireland.

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