One hasty act by Iranians can release hell, writes Mark Almond
The crisis between Great Britain and Iran seems to have stalled.
London refuses to release the Iranian tanker being held in Gibraltar on its way to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, while Tehran continues to hold the British flag Stena Impero.
The decision of our new government to commit to the Americans and participate in a security mission to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf suggests that things are in a critical phase.
London refuses to release the Iranian tanker being held in Gibraltar on its way to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, while Tehran continues to hold the British flag Stena Impero. Depicted is Iran's revolutionary guard inspecting the Stena Impero on 24 July
At best, our European partners have marines that, like ours, have suffered from years of underinvestment. The frigates and destroyers of Europe together, however, would have been a force that could escort oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz and possibly deter more Iranian attacks.
After all, that was the goal of the previous foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
But politics instead of military power has tipped the EU against involvement. European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – led by the Obama administration but rejected last year by Donald Trump – are desperate to keep it alive.
The EU's dislike of Trump and its conviction that a bad deal with Iran was better than no deal is why, for example, the German Foreign Minister said the navy would not join US-led convoys in the US. Golf. Such convoys could, according to Germany, provoke the hardliners of Iran.
The decision of our new government to commit to the Americans and participate in a security mission to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf suggests that things are in a critical phase. Stock image of Iranian revolutionary guards driving a speedboat
So far, the Iranians have certainly been careful not to insult the EU. The United Kingdom, for its part, maintains its support for the deal that relieves Iran of economic sanctions as long as the country's nuclear program is curbed despite this new alliance with Trump's America.
On the positive side, it is putting Britain firmly on the side of super power and, it must be said, morally correct. The seizure of the Stena Impero by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was an act of piracy in the rough.
But being right with a powerful friend on call should not blind us to the risks that remain for British shipping and for the many British expats living in the Gulf states.
Only one hasty action is needed – a missile defense gun whether the Ayatollahs agree or disagree – to let go of hell in the Gulf with a worldwide economic downturn.
So far, the Iranians have not shown any signs of decline. Even "moderates" such as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have become more powerful in their convictions of Trump and the sanctions imposed by his White House.
Perhaps the sight of the US Navy's firepower, accompanied by no fewer than three British warships, will break the deadlock.
But let's hope that while the White Flag flutters next to the Stars and Stripes, both parties behind the scenes are still talking to Tehran.
After May Trump took away, the EU took us away … Now Marine will join forces with the US to protect ships in the Gulf
Britain will join forces with the US to protect the merchant navy against threats from Iran, the defense ministry said last night.
The new "maritime security mission" is a radical change of approach – just two weeks later, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said the Royal Navy would try to form an alliance with European partners instead.
But after a few weeks in which EU countries refused to participate, ministers turned to the US.
The move follows the seizure last month of the tanker Stena Impero, flying the British flag, by the Iranian Republican Guard. At the time, critics accused Theresa May of a & # 39; major failure & # 39; for not accepting offers of assistance from the US.
So far, the Iranians have not shown any signs of decline. Even "moderates" such as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have become more powerful in their convictions of Trump and the sanctions imposed by his White House. Pictured is the Stena Important accompanied by the British naval frigate HMS Montrose and the ship of the Sea Plow through the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman on July 25
Last night Mr. Hunt's successor, Dominic Raab, insisted that the decision to join the US did not mean a shift in British policy on the nuclear deal with Iran.
Britain, along with the EU, supports the 2015 agreement that relieves Iran of economic sanctions as long as it limits its nuclear program – a deal that the US withdrew last year.
Raab said: "Our goal is to build the broadest international support to maintain freedom of navigation in the region, as protected by international law.
"Our approach to Iran has not changed. We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal. & # 39;
British officials suggested still hoping that other countries, including EU countries, would join the effort.
Last week, Germany rejected the pressure to send warships to the region. Deputy Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country would not participate in a US-led naval task force and warned of the danger of the world & # 39; sleepwalking in a much greater conflict & # 39 ;.
There are currently two British warships in the Strait of Hormuz, the critical shipping route where the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized the Stena Impero on July 19.
The HMS Montrose, a type 23 frigate, and HMS Duncan, a type 45 destroyer, have safely escorted 47 ships along Iranian waters. But the Montrose will return to the UK for maintenance later this year.
The US, which has built up forces in the region, has committed two warships for mission and air surveillance.
Tensions increased after Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in Iran and re-imposed sanctions. Since then, Iranian troops have been accused of planting limpet mines on two tankers.
It launched hostile actions after Royal Marines confiscated an Iranian tanker from Gibraltar last month for breaking sanctions.
Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace said: "The UK is committed to ensuring that its shipping is protected against unlawful threats and that is why we have today joined the new maritime security mission in the Gulf.
"Maintaining the freedom of passage is in all our interests. The deployment of Royal Navy assets is a sign of our commitment to our ships under the British flag and we look forward to working with the US and others to find an international solution to the problems in the Strait of Hormuz. & # 39;
Tehran has tried to put pressure on other signatories to the deal to have Americans lift sanctions that have paralyzed the economy.
It has led to a series of incidents, including the shooting of an American drone. Yesterday, Iran said it had seized an Iraqi tanker who accused it of "smuggling fuel."
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