The British-flagged Stena Impero tanker, seized last Friday in the strait of Hormuz, was at last notice held in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. But the ship of state known as HMS Britain is heading into uncharted waters, in the hands of an unreliable captain. […]
The case of the Stena Impero is, of course, just the latest element of the broader US-Iran confrontation dragging others in. Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, warned Iran that the vessel’s seizure had contributed to an “escalation spiral” that could lead to war. But this spiral was initiated by the US, which chose to walk away from the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, by which Tehran was abiding, and Washington has done everything it can to destroy Iran’s economy – largely it seems from Donald Trump’s urge to erase Barack Obama’s legacy. Tehran regards the impounding of the British tanker as a straightforward tit-for-tat response to the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker by Royal Marines two weeks ago; it came a day after a court in Gibraltar extended that vessel’s detention for another month.
Britain says it acted at Gibraltar’s request, over an alleged breach of EU sanctions on Syria. But the legal case is far from clear, to put it mildly, and US pressure is understood to have played a key role. The US national security adviser, John Bolton, who has long sought regime change in Tehran, exulted in the capture on Twitter. Add in the plentiful historical reasons for Iran to distrust the UK, and its anger that Europe has not mitigated the effects of US “maximum pressure”, and the scene was set for the Stena Impero’s seizure. Läs artikel