What Oil Tanker?
Audio and video has been released from the moment when Iranian forces ordered the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero to change course and then boarded it this past Friday, reportedly compelling the crew to dock at an Iranian port. According to the Iranians, the British were “violating international maritime rules,” while Iran’s IRNA news agency says it smashed a smaller fishing boat. It sounds like there may have been a mix-up at the Get The Story Straight Department in Iran.
Around one-quarter of the world’s oil production goes through the Strait of Hormuz which is the only way to shop oil out from the oil-rich Persian Gulf region. Just in case you weren’t worried enough yet about all this, global shipping expert Richard Meade calls the Stena Impero “probably the highest level security threat that we have seen in the region since the late 80s.”
British ministers are looking into freezing Iranian assets and Downing Street has said they don’t want a direct confrontation with Iran but the incident was “unacceptable and highly escalatory.”
As far as we’re aware, that’s British-speak for: we’re bloody mad and we want our tanker back.
The US wants a multinational warship fleet in the Strait of Hormuz to protect shipping and provide security, but the UK and EU have so far not agreed with the plan. Which, might be the only thing they currently agree on.
A British Navy frigate that could have assisted the Stena Impero was reportedly too far away to help.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) rappelled onto the British vessel from helicopters on July 19, and the 23-person crew can be seen in video complying with demands.
London has demanded that Tehran let the tanker go, but Iran says no.
But what led up to this? Several weeks ago British Marines helped board and stop the Grace 1 tanker off the coast of Gibraltar because it was believed to be carrying Iranian oil to Syria—which breaks the EU’s current Iran sanctions. Iran called that raid illegal “piracy” and appears to have seized the Stena Impero as promised retaliation.
What’s more, the only time The Donald decided to pull out where he shouldn’t have means tensions were already at an all time high.
This is followed in early July by the seizure of the Grace 1, the Iranian attempt to stop a British oil tanker on July 10 and the Iranian seizure of another, apparently Panamanian-flagged tanker with 12 crew members on it on July 14 that Iran says was carrying 1 million liters of “smuggled fuel.” Because that’s what oil tankers do…Hide fuel?
There are certainly those who say that Iran is being backed in a corner and framed as the bad guy by war-hungry neoconservative propagandists. Others say Iran’s duplicitous and threatening behaviour is part of a larger pattern of aggression and subversion across the region that is very much real.
All that is clear right now is that the escalation from drones to tankers (to what next?) is moving a bit fast for this season of the End of the World. The show started off with a few laughs and some interesting plot twists, sure, but it’s all getting just a little bit too real now, and all of us rational-minded people would request that the director please dial it back a little bit.
We can only hope that this latest tanker-nicking craze won’t lead directly to the actual finale of the show, which has been rumoured to include red-hot pyrotechnics in the silhouette shape of a ten-mile-wide Charlie Chaplin hat.