As the media world and the twitterati are abuzz with whether or not Trump was racist and what Ilhan Omar will say next, the real world just ploughs right along, steaming straight toward another meltdown in the Middle East.
Iran is heating up, again.
This comes hot on the heels of another incident in the Strait, two days ago Iran stopped the Panamanian ship the MT Riah, accusing it of smuggling Iranian oil.
This can be seen as the inevitable Iranian response to the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month. Jeremy Hunt claimed the ship, the Grace 1, was seized because it was transporting oil to Syria, in defiance of Western sanctions. Iran denies this. (Ed. Not an expert, but fairly sure under international law the UK has no right to enforce these sanctions. Iran and Syria are sovereign nations with every right to engage in bilateral trade).
Alongside all of this, yesterday President Donald Trump claimed the US military had downed an Iranian drone to “protect” one of their warships. Iran denies any of their drones have been destroyed.
One of two things is happening here:
1. US/UK are deliberately sailing ships into Iran’s waters to provoke a response.
2. Iran is flexing its muscles in the area, trying to demonstrate how they can hurt international oil markets if they are pushed into doing so.
The motivation for the US is clear in that scenario, they are hoping they can force Iran to do something, or else credibly invent an incident, that will justify their torpedoing of the nuclear deal. This could then be used to pressure the EU to join the US in applying new sanctions, or be lead to all-out war. It’s not clear which the US wants right now, but the historical precedents all point to America’s itchy trigger fingers.
If Iran is forcing the issue themselves, it’s a bold move. Fully capable of blowing up in their faces. It also contradicts some of their other moves – notably the deal the Iranian foreign minister proposed just yesterday, whereby the US would drop their sanctions in exchange for the Iranian government allowing immediate and regular inspections of all their nuclear facilities.
This deal would, essentially, be reintroducing the terms of the deal Trump tore up, but on a much-accelerated timeline.
There has been no word yet on whether or not the US would accept this deal (although those of you paying attention could probably make an educated guess).
Of course, with all the talk of drones, tankers and whathaveyou, the proposed peace deal has been pretty much ignored in the mainstream media.
The questions become:
- Is this Iran attempting a Good Cop-Bad Cop move?
- Or are the US upping tensions to overshadow the proposed deal, and/or provide an excuse to reject it?
- Do the Neocons really want a new war, or are they satisfied with sanctions?
- If Iran is attempting to boss the situation, will the US back down?
- What is the UK’s role in this?
- Are they just doing what the US tells them, or does Westminster have their own reasons for stoking tensions?
UPDATE 20/07/19: Footage released showing Iranian Revolutionary Guard boarding Stena Impero:
— RT (@RT_com) July 20, 2019
Iran’s government has, predictably, described the incident as “reciprocation”.
The UK media have described Iran’s actions as “taunting the UK” and “stoking tensions”
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) July 20, 2019
Meanwhile, the US is increasing its military presence in Saudi Arabia.