Surface Forces: January 16, 2003

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One of the longest maritime interdiction efforts in history continues in the northern Persian Gulf. Since 1990, Iraq's coast has been interdicted by the multinational interdiction force. In that time, over 40,000 ships have been queried, 17,500 boarded and 2,000 diverted for real or suspected smuggling. In the first week of 2003, the force queried 113 ships, boarded 63 and diverted 19. When a ship is to be boarded, a force of up to a dozen sailors comes aboard. Each sailor is armed with a pistol and one with a shotgun. If a particularly dangerous situation is expected, the force usually has teams of U.S. Navy SEAL commandoes available to make the inspection. The SEALs often come aboard via helicopter. In the last year, cooperation with the Iranian navy has made it practically impossible for Iraqi ships to sneak in or out. The most common items being smuggled out are oil and dates (which are worth their weight in oil, considering the high quality of Iraqi dates.) Items being smuggled in vary, but are usually consumer goods. Valuable military items are smuggled in overland, where local border guards can be bribed. The maritime interdiction force cannot be bribed, although early on Iraqi ship captains attempted this.

 


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