A newly released Wikileaks cable (original here) indicates that the U.S. warned Israel as far back as 2008 not to do business with the very shipping company to which Ofer Brothers sold the Raffles Park, because the shipping line was an Iranian front. The cable warned that IRISL was masking its activities in order to avoid sanctions:
— IRISL is increasingly employing deceptive measures to disguise the end user, and/or destination of its cargo, and IRISL’s involvement in the transaction.
This appears to be precisely what happened when Ofer Brothers sold the ship to another party which promptly turned around and sold it to IRISL, which was then able to use it to transport cargo to Iran that presumably would violate the international sanctions regime.
The following passage from the Haaretz article exposes what appears to be the almost colossal incompetence of the Israeli foreign ministry:
A senior source in the Foreign Ministry conceded that not enough steps were taken in recent years by the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to explain the sanctions against Iran to the private sector. The official said this was because no legislation or cabinet decision had been enacted on the matter.
The Foreign Ministry learned in February 2011 that the U.S. government was about to impose sanctions on Ofer Brothers, but did not approach the administration with regard to the company.
Israel learned four months ago that one of Israel’s largest conglomerates was to be placed on a U.S. blacklist and it did nothing. Say what? Is that believable? If it’s true, it’s yet another nail in the coffin of Avigdor Lieberman’s leadership of the MFA. Would you buy a used car or ship from the guy?
Of course, it’s entirely possible that if Ofer Brothers was providing regular access for Israel’s spy agency directly into Iran, as an Israeli source told me, that Israel WOULD ignore the blacklist warning because the benefit to Israeli intelligence was so great. I wonder whether the U.S. government had any inkling that Ofer Brothers were providing such access to Iran? And would they have placed the company on the blacklist if they knew?