British navy to Iran: Back the hell off

Do the Iranians want a war? They nearly got one overnight, not with the US but with the United Kingdom. The British navy aimed its guns on several Iranian ships attempting to block passage through the Strait of Hormuz of a British oil tanker, which caused the smaller ships to retreat:

Three Iranian vessels attempted to stop a British tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, Britain said Thursday, in the latest escalation between Iran and Western powers in recent weeks.

A British navy ship, the HMS Montrose, “was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and [the tanker] British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the British government said in a statement.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region,” the statement said.

Last month, the Iranians shot down a US drone operating in international airspace, which nearly prompted a military strike in retaliation. The Iranians have now apparently either shifted their focus or broadened it, also in retaliation. The UK seized a Panamanian oil tanker carrying Iranian crude off the coast of Gibraltar, accusing Tehran of violating EU sanctions by selling oil to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Iran called it “an act of piracy” and threatened “consequences” for the seizure.

This seems to be the UK’s reminder that even consequences have further consequences. For the moment, anyway, the Iranians got the message. However, they clearly want to start a fight in the Strait of Hormuz with someone, even though it’s becoming clearer that the US and the UK are willing to shoot back now after the attacks on other shipping in the Hormuz area.

Iran may not have much choice. Their economy is collapsing again under the weight of US sanctions, and their population is growing restive. The Trump administration announced yesterday that more sanctions are coming now that Iran has openly admitted breaking past the restrictions on uranium enrichment:

The United States on Wednesday accused Iran of “nuclear extortion” and threatened further sanctions against Tehran, which has begun stockpiling and enriching uranium beyond the limits set in the 2015 accord that President Trump has abandoned.

The United States called an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday in response to the Iranian moves, while a senior French envoy was in Tehran exploring ways to reopen negotiations on compliance with the deal.

Iran called this “warfare“:

Iran says it’s prepared to return to “full implementation” of its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but only when matched by the full compliance of “all participants.” …

Iran’s representative to international organizations in Vienna, Kazem Gharib Abadi, told a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Wednesday U.S. actions were “neither legitimate nor legal” and should not be accepted by the international community.

He says that the “costly” consequences of American sanctions mean “they should be seen as weapons of warfare.”

Iran had better be careful before they find out what warfare actually would look like against the US and UK. They’ve been testing Western responses in the Hormuz area for some time, and the British navy gave the Iranians something to think about. If the mullahs are getting nervous about the misery of their population, then they should rethink their nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as their support for Iranian proxy terror networks in the region.