They’ve decided that yesterday’s drone incident wasn’t a loud enough message to the west that it’s time to ease sanctions or else, it seems.
Is this escalation, actually, or retaliation?
Iran said Friday that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, and the tanker’s owner said it had lost contact with the vessel as it appeared to be heading toward Iran. The British government said it was urgently seeking information about the incident…
Britain and Iran have been embroiled in a dispute for the past few weeks over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate…
“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.
Iran has also seized a second tanker, the Liberian-flagged MV Mesdar, according to a US official. Two more US officials tell CNN that, according to maritime intelligence reports, the indication is the Mesdar has been seized.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced earlier that its navy has captured a British-flagged tanker ‘Stena Impero’ in the Strait of Hormuz.
The order of seizure of the two ships isn’t clear at this time.
The reason for seizing the British-flagged ship is obvious enough. It’s revenge for the seizure of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar by the UK on July 4th, an embarrassment for which Iranian hawks had demanded reprisal. Today wasn’t Iran’s first attempt at retaliation, in fact. Per the Times, last Thursday three Iranian ships tried to detain a different British tanker but were scared off by a British warship that was accompanying it. Presumably the tanker diverted today was without accompaniment.
Tit for tat. But what about that other tanker, the Liberian-flagged one? What’s the message there? It could be that seizing a second vessel is Iran’s way of showing Trump and the other parties to the nuclear deal that they’re getting more desperate for sanctions relief and that war will come soon if an economic reprieve doesn’t. But it’s possible that this too was part of the reprisal to the UK for the Gibraltar seizure of Iran’s tanker. Of note:
BREAKING: A second tanker with UK links appears to have veered sharply towards Iran.
Mesdar is Liberian flagged, but owned by Glasgow-registered company Norbulk UK. https://t.co/qKJF2z71CX
— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) July 19, 2019
The second tanker taken today is Scottish-owned. “If they seize one of ours, we seize two of theirs.” Maybe that’s Iran’s message here. Trump told reporters this afternoon that he’s working with the UK on a way out of this.
Is … Rand Paul the way out? There’s no one in Washington, at least on the right, who’s friendlier to the idea of relaxing sanctions in the name of reducing tensions and he just so happens to momentarily be the president’s chief enjoy to Iran’s foreign minister. In lieu of an exit question, read through the enjoyably pissy quotes from Republican hawks in this new Free Beacon piece about Paul being enlisted as a useful idiot for Iran, much to the delight of Iran doves in the Obama administration. (“This is effectively an Iranian influence camp that’s cultivating Tucker Carlson and Rand Paul.”) Lord only knows where Trump will come down if Rand reports back that Rouhani’s willing to meet with him personally at the top of the Eiffel Tower or whatever for talks if only he suspends sanctions immediately. “Nooooo!” the GOP hawks will cry. “Yesssss,” Tucker Carlson will say. Whom does Trump listen to?