Mideast Tensions Soar as US Downs Iranian Drone, Iran Seizes Tankers

Iran is attacking oil shipping. Oil Tanker. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy. Photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer

Tensions between Iran and the international community escalated last week as an Iranian drone was shot down after threatening an American warship and multiple civilian foreign ships were seized by Iran, including one belonging to the United Kingdom. The drone incident occurred on Thursday, with United States President Donald Trump announcing that a US Navy amphibious assault ship took “defensive action” against an incoming Iranian drone that ignored calls and was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.”

Said Trump on Thursday in comments posted to the White House website, “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities, and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”

That same day, a foreign ship was captured by Iran, which claimed that the vessel was smuggling fuel, according to a report by the Fars News Agency. One day later, two different British were seized, but Iran claimed to have released the second. The British were outraged over the seizing of ships, and just one day earlier Israel pointed to Iranian “aggression” as why the world should take action.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt on Twitter said on Saturday of the situation involving the still-captured Stena Impero ship taken in non-Iranian seas that a UK cabinet meeting “reaffirmed UK desire to de-escalate but confirmed Stena Impero was seized in OMANI waters in clear contravention of international law & discussed how 2 secure safety of UK/int shipping in Straits of Hormuz.”

Even before the UK ships were taken, on Thursday last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted by his office pushing for the world to respond to Iran’s activities.

“The struggle against the Iranian aggression is not just ours, it needs to be the struggle of the entire world,” said Netanyahu. “Today we again saw this aggression expressed in the waters of the Persian Gulf. I would like to remind you that for many years we stood alone in the face of the Iranian aggression. The time has come for the entire enlightened world to understand the severity of the danger from Iran and Hezbollah. The time has come for the entire world to come out against them.”

According to the Fars Report, Iran claimed that the British vessels had violated international naval law, with the crew of the Stena Impero ship still under Iranian control taken back for an investigation.

Germany joined the UK in assailing the Iranian actions, with a Federal Foreign Office Spokesman stating in a press release that the German government “condemns the detention of two commercial vessels in the Gulf in the strongest possible terms.” Said the statement, “This is an unjustifiable intervention in civilian shipping that further exacerbates what is already a tense situation.”

The Germans called upon Iran to release the Stena Impero and its crew “without delay.”

“A further escalation in the region would be very dangerous and would also undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis,” said the German statement. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our UK partners in this serious situation.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, July 21, 2019)


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