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Control of the embargo and the Artimon operations
On August 6, 1990 the UN decreed, by resolution 661, the commercial, financial and military boycott of Iraq . Subsequently on August 25, resolution 665 that authorizes both the use of force and visits to the facilities subject to the embargo. The high command feared that civil ships could be turned into minelayers threatening the seaways; such fear justifies a thorough search of suspect ships.

The WEU (Western European Union) forces for the embargo control were allocated to the three Artimon missions :

- Artimon East to oversee the strait of Ormuz  between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf  of Oman;
- Artimon West to control the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba;
- Artimon South to control the Strait of Bab el Mandeb at the mouth of the Red Sea.

Control of a seaway consists mainly in identifying and recognizing the ships that sail through it. The objective is to detect the vessels by radar or direct sighting and make radio or visual contact with them. To accomplish those two tasks, central operations and the bridge must work in close cooperation. As soon as a ship is under control a dialogue is established with the client: “Merchant ship on my port side, this is the (Belgian) warship calling on your channel... What is your name, your ship owner, your home port, your destination ...”.

Most of the times the merchant captains collaborate immediately and respond to questions, but this is not always enough: some ships behave strangely or are seen as suspect. In this case the commander has to take action and get a closer look.

The inspection is an important step at this time, and in other circumstance this would be outlawed by any international jurist. In high sea, a warship is only allowed to visit vessels sailing under the same flag as the warship’s. However, on August 25 the UN Security Council took an exceptional step in its resolution 665, namely ask all its member states to take measures consonant with the circumstances to inspect their cargo and make sure of their destination. It’s a first for both lawmakers and sailors.

The procedure is always the same: after asking the suspect ship to stop, the zodiacs and the boarding team members get on board, climbing the lather on the side of the ship. Dispersed all over the ship, the team members, under the command of an officer, stay in contact among them and with their own ship's deck. The commissary examines all documents presented by the captain: ship’s company list, registry documents, captain’s log, ship’s manifest, and so on, the purpose being to first verify or determine the legality of everything and everybody associated with the ship, its destination and its cargo. Then the cargo is examined, which may take several hours, and only then is the captain allowed to continue the journey.

The WEU (Western European Union) forces controls the embargo with ships from France (frigates and destroyers), Britain (frigates and destroyers), Belgium (one frigate), Italy (two frigates), Spain (two frigates) and Holland (two frigates). The Western European Union forces account for more than 70% of the reconnaissances, and the US navy makes 55% of the visits.

As of February 12, just before the start of Desert Storm, control of the embargo by all the navies involved (USA, WEU, Greece, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Argentina) represented 24,694 reconnaissances, with 17,402 by the Western European Union and 7,170 by the US navy.

As of March 25, 1991 the numbers total 28,586 reconnaissances, 1,107 visits, 62 sidetrackings and 14 warning shots. The control missions will continue beyond the end of fighting.

As of May 27, 1991 the numbers climb to 32,508 reconnaissances (22,464 for the WEU and 9,842 for the US Navy), 1,477 visits (US Navy 710 and WEU 312) and 89 sidetrackings (US Navy 72, WEU 14). There have been no warning shots since the end of open hostilities.

The numbers reflect the amount of work accomplished by all the navies to implement the embargo against Iraq , which was one of the major factors contributing to the success of the measures taken to overcome the opposition of the Iraqi people. The integration of the allied navies was a total success after 40 years of joint exercises, although there were many difficulties because visiting merchant ships in international waters was a first in international law.

The sailors charged with the reconnaissances and the visits had to learn about the administrative subtleties and copious paperwork associated with merchant shipping, not to mention the complex interrelationships among the numerous interested shiping parties.

Some “clients” are not necessarily cooperative. For example, on December 20 the Iraqi ship - AI Taawin AI Aradien - arrived en route to Aqaba; right away, a P-3C Orion, a US cruiser - USS San Jacinto CG56 - , and two other surface vessels - the escort vessel D630 Du Chayla and the frigate F34 Infanta Cristana - were dispatched toward the Iraqi ship, which was refusing to respond to radio calls. The cruiser shot a warning salvo and then the Iraqi commander promptly accepted to be visited but only by the French. The visit was carried out under protection of the three ships to avoid any trap.

Very few ships having participated in the control missions are called “Centurion,” which means having made 100 control missions or more. The escort vessel D630 Du Chayla made its 100th visit on April 5, 1991 just before leaving the Red Sea on its way to  France . She thus joined the US Navy frigates FFG-58 USS Samuel B. Roberts and FF-1082 USS Elmer Montgomery.

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