Desert Shield at Sea: What the Navy Really Did

By Marvin Pokrant | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Maritime Interception
Operations: The Paperwork
War

The maritime interception operations were in their third month when the price of poker went up. As of 10 November ComUSNavCent forces had conducted 3,498 queries, 404 boardings, and 15 diversions. By mid-December more than 130 U.S. ships and sixty allied ships sailed in the region.

Because of the natural chokepoints, the maritime interception operations had two fronts—the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Forces on both fronts followed the same rules of engagement, had the same coordination requirements with coalition members (and their differing rules of engagement), and had to contend with suspect ships using territorial waters to avoid inspection. Even though Egypt, unlike Iran, was part of the coalition, there were territorial-water constraints. Chapters 3, 4, and 8 focused primarily on the Persian Gulf maritime interception operations and on stopping the flow of oil and other goods in and out of Iraqi ports. In this chapter we show how the Red Sea forces faced different challenges and obstacles.


RED SEA OPERATIONS

Although the Persian Gulf forces encountered many more ships than did the Red Sea forces, the latter conducted the majority of boardings. Large numbers of ships entered the Persian Gulf on legitimate business bound for countries other than Iraq or Kuwait. Coalition forces had to query each ship but needed to board relatively few, because traffic to Iraq nearly disappeared. Each ship needed to answer a series of questions regarding such topics as its port of registry, ports of embarkation and debarkation, cargo, and passengers.

On the other side of the theater, the Jordanian port of Aqaba was an active port and served as a transshipment point for goods to and from Iraq. Because the sanctions were not aimed at Jordan, the port could not be blocked off. Red Sea interception forces had not only to query but also board nearly every ship entering or

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