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Meir Dagan, Israeli Spy Chief Who Took Aim at Iran, Dies at 71

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Meir Dagan, the Israeli soldier and spymaster who was widely credited with setting back Iran’s nuclear program through covert and daring operations as the director of the Mossad intelligence agency from 2002 to 2011, died on Thursday in Tel Aviv. He was 71.

The cause was liver cancer, a spokesman for the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said. Mr. Dagan underwent a liver transplant in Belarus in 2012, but he faced complications after returning to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in praising Mr. Dagan, referred to a well-known and chilling photograph showing Mr. Dagan’s grandfather kneeling and humiliated before Nazi soldiers shortly before he was killed in the Holocaust.

“Meir was determined to ensure that the Jewish people would never be helpless and defenseless again,” Mr. Netanyahu said, “and to this end he dedicated his life to building up the strength of the state of Israel.”

Soon after he retired as Mossad chief, Mr. Dagan (pronounced dag-ANN) publicly criticized Mr. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, over their policy of preparing for a military option against Iran’s nuclear program. He told an audience at a conference in Jerusalem that a strike on Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid idea.”

Mr. Dagan argued that military action might not achieve all its goals and that it could lead to a regional war. His criticism became more personal in a statement to journalists after the military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the director of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Yuval Diskin, both left office as well.

“I decided to speak out because when I was in office, Diskin, Ashkenazi and I could block any dangerous adventure,” Mr. Dagan was quoted as saying. “Now I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak,” he added, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.

While in office, Mr. Dagan oversaw a number of reported operations that were hailed as great successes in Israel.

One was a joint American and Israeli effort that produced the Stuxnet computer worm, a program that appeared to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. It had been tested at Israel’s heavily guarded Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev, according to experts.

Though he never spoke publicly about his role, Mr. Dagan was central to the Israeli part of the program, conferring regularly with senior members of President George W. Bush’s administration.

Ultimately, Israel did not use its military option. And last summer, the world powers reached a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program, which Israeli leaders consider an existential threat to their country.

In 2007, Mr. Dagan provided American officials with the pictures that proved that Syria had been building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help. The Bush administration declined to bomb it, but after much debate Israel destroyed it in an air raid in September of that year.

Bald and stocky, Mr. Dagan was regarded by reporters as humorless, though always eager to court them, and readily outspoken. He criticized Israel’s political leaders for failing to seriously pursue a peace initiative with the Palestinians, and last year he again lashed out at Mr. Netanyahu shortly before the general elections returned the prime minister to office for a third consecutive term.

“How did it happen that the country, stronger by far than all the countries in the region, is incapable of carrying out a strategic move that will improve our situation?” Mr. Dagan said at a rally in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv calling for political change. “The answer is simple: We have a leader who is fighting one campaign only, the campaign for his political survival.”

Having emerged from the shadows, Mr. Dagan said at the rally, he was “not a man of speeches” or a member of any political party. “The only party I am loyal to every day is the state of Israel,” he said.

He was born Meir Hubermann on Jan. 30, 1945, in Kherson, in what is now Ukraine, according to his official biography on the Mossad website. He was the son of Holocaust survivors. Other reports said he was born on the floor of a train as his parents traveled between Poland and the Soviet Union.

He immigrated to Israel with his family in 1950, two years after the state was founded, and enlisted in the Israeli military in 1963. He served in the paratrooper brigade and fought as a company commander in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967.

Rising through the ranks, he was tasked by Ariel Sharon, the general who became prime minister of Israel, to establish a special unit to combat militancy in the Gaza Strip in the 1970s. He was later appointed commander of the South Lebanon region. He retired from the military in 1995 with the rank of major general.

Mr. Dagan then joined Israel’s counterterrorism bureau under Prime Minister Shimon Peres and was later appointed head of the bureau. He returned to the military in the late 1990s, joining the general staff and serving as a special adviser to the chief of staff.

It was Mr. Sharon who appointed Mr. Dagan to lead the Mossad, where he served as director under three prime ministers: Mr. Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Mr. Netanyahu.

Israel does not acknowledge responsibility for operations abroad, but Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite organization, blamed Israel for the 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior commander of the group, whose car exploded in the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

In a more embarrassing episode on Mr. Dagan’s watch, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, accused Israel of killing one of its senior officials, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in a Dubai hotel room. Israelis initially celebrated the 2010 operation, but then the Dubai police released images showing some of the 17 people suspected of being in the hit squad bumbling about in almost comical disguises.

Yaakov Perry, a lawmaker and former chief of Shin Bet, described Mr. Dagan as “one of the builders of the foundations of the theories of the war against terrorism, of special operations in the military and within the intelligence community.”

Mr. Dagan’s survivors include his wife, Bina, and three children.

Marking Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day in April 2010, the popular Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot printed the photograph of Mr. Dagan’s grandfather on its cover.

Speaking at the Tel Aviv rally, Mr. Dagan’s voice broke with emotion as he linked his personal connection to the Holocaust with his lifelong mission of trying to safeguard Israel.

“During all the years of my service,” he said, “I carried with me from place to place the photograph of my grandfather taken a moment before he was murdered by the Nazis. I swore that that would never happen again. I hope and believe that I have done everything in my power to keep that promise.”

NY Times

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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