Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Iranian Navy Boards Marshall Islands (US) Flagged Cargo Vessel

Iranian forces boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf on Tuesday after patrol boats fired warning shots across its bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters, the Pentagon said.

U.S. planes and a destroyer were monitoring the situation after the vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, made a distress call in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important oil shipping channels.

Iran's Tasnim news agency quoted an unidentified source who sought to play down the incident, saying it was a civil matter with no military or political dimension. But the Pentagon described it as an apparent provocation.
For the record, the Marshall Islands are legally protected by the USA under a Compact of Free Association. So yeah, the ship isn't a "US" ship, but it's pretty much the same thing since we are obligated to protect them under a very specific treaty.

The part I really don't like is where this happened: the strait of Hormuz, which Reuters accurately describes as "one of the world's most important oil shipping channels". It's not hard to see why.

See the red arrow? Yeah, it's the choke-point for the Persian Gulf.

So we've now got the Iranians testing us by seeing what we'll do if they start to exercise their power and cut off navigation through the strait of Hormuz. Not good. While I believe that Iran has previously claimed the strait of Hormuz to be part of it's "territorial waters", I don't believe the international community, or more to the point, any American President has ever agreed with this assessment.

If the US does not react in a very clear way to this, I am afraid that this will embolden Iran to further restrict shipping through the strait. You have to make it very clear to your adversaries what your intentions are. That's how you prevent small things from escalating into big things.

Continuing to let the bully push you around is what got everyone into trouble with Putin and Ukraine. I think Iran has been taking notes from Putin, and they're putting a similar plan into action here. This boarding of a ship is just the slow easing of the water temperature upwards so as not to make the frog jump out of the pot. The next move will be just slightly more aggressive. Then next one, just a little more. Nothing will be a big incident that makes us want to react, but the ratchet will continue to turn.

I'm sure the US Navy has been told to stand down and not do anything that would scuttle the Iran-US deal. I'm also pretty sure the Iranians know this, so they're pushing the envelope as far as they can. They're going to keep pushing until we push back.

Now there's a lot of things we don't know just yet. We don't know exactly where the ship was, what its cargo is, or where it was going. All I know is that the Iranians are going to do whatever they can get away with.

1 comment:

  1. I think now that the Iranians have taken the measure of Kerry and Obama, Iran will probably start some pushing and shoving to see what they can get away with. Next few weeks may be very interesting and not in a good way.