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.