De-Escalation in Order

5 July 2019

 

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

UK Seizes Iranian Tanker off Gibraltar

 

The Royal Marines boarded an Iranian oil tanker, which is flying the Panamanian flag, off the Gibraltar Coast last night. Britain says that the cargo was illegally headed to Syria. Spain is protesting the action because of Madrid's insistence that Gibraltar is Spanish territory. However, the EU sanctions on Syria prevented Spain from interfering with the seizure of the vessel. Most of the crew members are Indian nationals, as well as Pakistanis and Ukrainians. This is a diplomatic mess, and one now expects Iran to retaliate against Britain.

The relations between Syria and Iran are close. The Alawite government in Damascus is a flavor of Shi'ite, and the Iranians have used Syria as a conduit to fund Hebollah and Hamas. So, one is prepared to believe that the UK intelligence is correct. If the cargo was actually headed to the Banyas refinery in Syria, the arrest of the ship is perfectly legal.

Legal and politic, however, are two different things. Seizing the vessel in Gibraltar's waters creates tension with Spain. Some other EU member state could have made the arrest elsewhere. Spain itself might have done so. By having the UK involved and by the event occurring off Gibraltar, the situation complicates other issues.

As one UK diplomat told El Pais, 'There is no doubt that the Spanish government also supports the sanctions despite the fact that both governments have unfinished business concerning the territorial dispute over Gibraltar."

Britain and the other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA, the Iran Nuke deal] have worked hard to keep Iran from withdrawing from the arrangement after Donald Trump stupidly took America out of it. A few days ago, Iran announced that it had more enriched uranium on hand than the JCPOA allowed, and it had decided it would enrich beyond the 3.5% level. This preceded Iranian forces attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf a few weeks ago. This seizure makes addressing that problem much harder.

Iran is now likely to retaliate against Britain. Mohsen Rezae, a member of a council that advises the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, tweeted, "If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities' duty to seize a British oil tanker." One hopes that this is merely a threat, but why would it be? Iran has easy access to the tankers in the Gulf, and it has no reason to be generous about this matter.

Paul Adams of the BBC reminded the world, "We've been here before: 28 years ago, America and Iran came to blows in the same waters. Ships were attacked, crew members killed and injured. Before it was over, an Iranian airliner had been shot out of the sky, by mistake."

De-escalation is in order, but no one seems interested in taking the first step.


© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.


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