Tanker seizures between Iran and the UK

You might know that tensions between the US and Iran have been escalating ever since the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic. On Saturday, Iran seized a British tanker, the Stena Impero, which was navigating in the Strait of Hormuz, in retaliation for the UK’s seizure of an Iranian tanker earlier this month off the coast of Gibraltar. You’ll see on most Western media that the UK’s decision was made because the Iranian ship was suspected of shipping oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, and that Iran’s answer is absolutely illegal. However, I happened to stumble upon a very interesting comment on this FT article which elaborates on a few points left unsaid. I haven’t confirmed the following pieces of information myself so do take them with a grain of salt.

  • Apparently, the EU sanctions were supposed to stop Syria exporting oil, not importing it. Furthermore, the UK’s interpretation of these sanctions may be overboard: only the ECJ can decide.
  • The sanctions have been implemented in 2011, but it’s the first time a tanker has ever been intercepted by a EU country. Suspicious, isn’t it?
  • No EU country has supported the UK’s action. Spain has even protested as the Iranian tanker was seized in its waters. The commenter posted a few links and pictures showing the boat’s trajectory and concluded that Spain was probably correct.

Again, beware, as a few other comments oppose those arguments, especially the ones about the extent of the EU sanctions and about the exact location where the tanker was seized (was it in international laws or not?). I just found it noteworthy enough to share it with you.

I do think that the UK was ordered by the US to add oil to the fire, but nothing’s ever obvious when diplomacy is involved.