By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani
"CAIRO, Nov 28 (IPS) - Representatives from states bordering the Red Sea met in Cairo last week to forge a common policy against the threat of maritime piracy. But some local commentators say recent deployments of foreign naval forces to the area to combat Somali corsairs could constitute an even greater threat.
"The stepped-up presence of foreign navies, supposedly here to protect international shipping lanes from piracy, could pose a danger to Arab national security," Gamal Mazloum, retired Egyptian brigadier-general and military expert, told IPS......
Some regional leaders, meanwhile, have voiced fears that the stepped-up deployment of foreign naval forces to the area itself represents a potential threat to regional sovereignty.
"The intensive multinational military presence in the southern outlet of the Red Sea is worrying," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi was quoted as saying Nov. 10. He went on to warn that this presence could pose a threat to "Arab national security" and lead to the "internationalisation" of the Red Sea.
According to Mazloum, the Yemeni minister's warning is not without some justification. He suggested the possibility that the piracy issue could be exploited by "foreign elements" with the aim of "internationalising the Red Sea region" to the benefit of the U.S. and Israel.
"In the 1980s, Israel proposed establishing a naval presence in the Red Sea, but the idea was quickly rejected by the Arabs and hasn't been discussed since," Mazloum explained. "But with this new outbreak of piracy, some analysts suspect that Israel will insist on dispatching naval forces to the area on the pretext of protecting commercial shipping."
He went on to question the seeming inability of existing foreign naval flotillas to thwart rampant piracy in the region......"