Iran Seizes British Oil Tanker as the Situation Intensifies

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On Friday, the British oil tanker the Stena Impero was seized by the IRGC in the Strait of Hormuz. This was in response to, Iran claims, violations of international maritime rules.

However, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that under international law Iran had no right to obstruct the ships passage and is therefore an act of piracy. Thankfully, all 23 crew members are safe and uninjured. 

The UK is
now seeking to put together a maritime protection mission in order to ensure
the safe passage of cargo and crew through areas such as the Strait of Hormuz. This
European-led mission is needed as the Royal Navy, despite being one of the
world’s most famous navy’s, is actually “too small” to protect
British interests abroad.

As detailed in previous Unshackled articles found here and here, two weeks ago an Iranian tanker was seized off of the coast of Gibraltar. The Grace 1 was suspected of being on its way to deliver oil to the Assad regime in Syria, a close ally of Iran.

This violated strict EU sanctions and the UK seized the ship. Iran had previously tried to seize a British tanker last week but failed, this particular successful attempt is most likely Iran’s way of gaining leverage amid heightened tensions with the West.  

To further
enflame the situation, Iran has claimed it arrested 17 CIA spies recruited to
spy on Iran’s military and nuclear sites. The Iranian official who made the
statement did not reveal his name but is believed to be the director of
counterespionage. This particular official has claimed that some of the ‘spies’
have received the death sentence whilst others have begun working with Iran
against the US now that they’ve been caught. President Trump, in response to
Iran’s claims, said that the arrests were not true and “totally false” and that
Iran was “badly failing”.

Furthermore,
the strait that exists between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran is an outlet used
to export most of the oil that comes out of the Middle East. And as a result of
the seizure of the British tanker, there has been a sharp rise in the price of
oil.

Despite all
of the tensions, seizures and ‘incidents’, fortunately the UK has explicitly
stated that it will approach the situation through dialogue and is not
considering military options. But, the US is approaching the situation
differently, by sending military personnel and resources to Saudi Arabia for
the first time since 2003.

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