Not so fast Tucker Carlson, blame UN regulatory rules…
By citing regulatory infractions, Iran turns the seizure into an enforcement action, one that’s authorized by UNCLOS.
If nothing else, the regime will probably try to demand a monetary payoff from the owners to get the tanker back. That would retaliate for the ship Sea Shark with Iranian crude, stranded since November 2018 with a huge unpaid fine, in a Red Sea anchorage off Egypt’s coast. (LU link for Grace 1, above.)
But as long as Iran is observing the forms of regulatory enforcement for the detention, there’s really not a pretext here for conducting military strikes on Iranian targets. At most, there’s gray area surrounding the authority Iran is invoking.
And the tanker and drone ‘engagements’ continue with Iran
Spoiler up front: we may not be as near hot lead as media reporting suggests.
As reporting settles out, it now appears that there were two foreign ships detained by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, both UK-owned. One, the Steno Impero, is UK-flagged. The other is the Mesdar, which is Liberian-flagged.
Earlier reports circulating in TV broadcasts and social media suggested there were three ships newly detained on Friday, apparently because it was not widely understood that one of the two UK tankers was the Liberian-flagged ship.
If that turns out to be an incorrect reckoning, I’ll get it repaired. The Friday detentions are in addition to the one Iran claimed on Thursday: detention of the small tanker Riah, which occurred on Sunday 14 July.
As of midnight on the U.S. East coast, the Steno Impero is still impounded, but the Mesdar was released earlier by Iran.
I assume this is because Mesdar flies the Liberian flag. Iran’s point is to seize and hold a tanker flying the flag of the United Kingdom. That is Tehran’s purpose because the UK performed the takedown of Grace 1, the paper-owned, Panamanian-flagged (but probably Iranian-controlled) tanker carrying Iranian crude oil, impounded in Gibraltar on 4 July.
It’s also because British policy is key in Iran’s pursuit of a separate agreement with the EU-3 powers – the UK, France, and Germany – to undermine U.S. sanctions.
Seizing the Steno Impero is an attempt at extortion, of course. But the method is noteworthy. As much as the media are talking about the possibility of strikes on Iran because tankers are being detained, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen.
The reason is something I actually previewed years ago, in an article from 2010 published just after Iran had conducted a major exercise. During the exercise, Iran reportedly practiced stopping and detaining merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
The important feature of the exercise was the pretext on which Iran practiced these skills: regulatory enforcement in Tehran’s Exclusive Economic Zone (and/or 24-nautical mile “contiguous zone,” extending 12 nautical miles past territorial waters from the Iranian coastline).