Bad times ahead for Somali pirates



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - The next year will be a bad one for the Somali pirates, as on December 16, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution giving special forces of its member countries the right to track and detain pirates on the sea and on land.

This surgical operation will not cleanse the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean of the pirates overnight, but it is a good start. Experts have been saying that you can successfully fight pirates only on land, with victory on the sea as an additional bonus.

Another important change is that China has agreed to join the multinational force against the pirates. In early January, China's best missile destroyers, Haikou and Wuhan, and the supply vessel Weishanhu, with over 800 sailors and 70 Marines on board, will reach the Gulf of Aden. They will coordinate their operation with the warships of other countries that are already in the Gulf or headed for it.

Some 1,200 Chinese merchant vessels pass by Somalia every year, and the pirates attack approximately 20% of them.

This is the first time in 600 years that Chinese warships will travel this far away from their home shores. The last time China sent its ships to the Arabian Peninsula was in the 15th century, when Admiral Zheng He commanded the Ming dynasty's fleet of immense merchant vessels.

Like everything else in China, the anti-pirates voyage has a symbolic meaning. "Apart from fighting pirates, another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese navy," China Daily quoted Prof. Li Jie, a naval researcher, as saying.

The U.S. and Britain are not pleased with China's advance onto the world's naval scene. When the Chinese destroyers reach the Gulf of Aden, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council will be represented in this highly dangerous part of the world.

This year alone, pirates attacked 124 commercial and private vessels there, hijacked 60 of them, and received between $20 million and $40 million in ransom. They are still holding 19 vessels, including their largest trophies to date, Saudi Arabia's oil tanker Sirius Star, which was carrying $100 million worth of crude to the U.S., and Ukraine's cargo ship Faina, carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts.

With nearly two dozen warships and a host of military boats and support vessels from the navies of Italy, Greece, Denmark, Britain, France, Germany, Spain (the EU has pledged to send 10 warships to the Gulf), Turkey, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, and the U.S., life will be difficult for the Somali pirates next year.

Some of these warships are already patrolling the Gulf, while others are waiting for parliamentary approval of their voyages. The U.S. will send warships from its 5th Fleet to fight the Somali pirates.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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