In the midst of the US-Iranian tension, and days after Tehran announced its breach of restrictions on its low-enriched uranium reserves, the government of Gibraltar of Britain announced on Thursday morning its detention of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, carrying an Iranian oil with the participation of British naval personnel on suspicion that it Carrying oil to Syria, in violation of EU sanctions on the Damascus regime.
The United States and Israel have welcomed the detention of the Iranian oil tanker, where US national security adviser John Bolton said the detention of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria on Thursday off Gibraltar was “excellent news.” “Britain intercepted the giant oil tanker Grace 1, loaded with Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” Bolton wrote on Twitter. “America and our allies will continue to prevent the Tehran and Damascus regimes from benefiting from this illegal trade,” he added , without saying whether the United States had asked for the tanker’s interception. Gibraltar’s government said on Friday its Supreme Court had issued an order to extend the tanker’s detention by 14 days.
The government’s detention is a new complication in the scene, while voices in Iran are demanding a British tanker be seized in retaliation. Where a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Friday threatened to detain a British oil tanker in response to the detention of the British Royal Marines a giant Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar. “If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, the (Iranian) authorities will have the duty to detain a British oil tanker,” Iran’s Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai said on Twitter. He wrote that “the Islamic revolution was not the initiator of the tension in any case at the age of 40, but did not hesitate to respond to the arrogant and thugs,” adding that “if Britain don’t release the Iranian oil tanker, the function of the responsible agencies to respond in retaliation and the detention of a British tanker.
The Iranian foreign ministry called on Britain’s ambassador to protest the detention of the tanker off the Strait of Gibraltar and demanded its immediate release, saying its detention was “illegal and contrary to international conventions.” Tehran also described the detention of its tanker by a government linked to Britain as “maritime piracy”. Spain shared the opinion that it had come at the request of the United States, which was denied by the Government of Gibraltar by its president Fabian Piccardo.
For his part, the head of the Iranian-British Parliamentary Friendship Group Mustafa Kawakibian said the detention of the tanker as “illegal piracy and illegal enemy of Iran,” and said it proves again “Britain’s dependence on America and the fragility of London’s claims to save the nuclear agreement.” On Friday’s platforms , a number of preachers condemned detention tanker , calling it piracy, and demanded the Foreign Ministry to respond harshly to Britain, which they described as “old colonialism,” quoted by the official IRNA agency. On the other hand, the director of the Arab Center for Iranian Studies, Mohammed Saleh Sedqian told Al Jazeera Net that the detention of the tanker “a disturbing step and calling for escalation, especially as it comes three days before the deadline set by Iran to the European Union in order to save the nuclear agreement before increasing the rate of uranium enrichment.”
Mohammed Salih Sdeqian considered the state of non-war and non- peace between Washington and Tehran very dangerous , and he warned of the spread of maritime piracy and legalization ,leading to chaos in International developments and “If the Spanish story was correct that the British navy detained the Iranian tanker under American pressure and a decision from the Treasury Department,” he said, adding that ” “This means that the Iranian Navy has the right to detain any tanker based on a decision by the Iranian Treasury ministry , meaning that we are facing a legalized piracy.”
” the detention of the tanker was done under the American pressure , Britain has always been supportive of America because Washington wants London to align with its side in putting pressure on Iran, and therefore entrusts some of the missions to the British army,” said former commander of the Revolutionary Guards Marine Corps, General Hussein Alaei. He added “To respond to these hostile measures in principle, political, legal and human rights should be acted upon, and if that is not useful , we can reciprocate,” .
In the context, a member of the Energy Committee of the Iranian parliament Korosh Haqiqi rejected the “justification of Britain to detain the tanker,” describing London and Washington as two sides of the same coin in the hostility to Iran, and accused Britain of dependence on America and Israel. He stressed that there are those who want to blackmail Iran,ana asked his government to take a decisive response towards what Britain has done, and promised to study the matter soon in the parliamentary energy committee.
With this British detention of the Iranian oil tanker, Britain, after a period of reservation, joined the hard-line US position on Iran’s activities in the region and its subversive agendas, a remarkable shift in British policy that is making strenuous efforts to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran, where it has turned a blind eye about Iran’s actions . in this context, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain was “almost certain” that Iran was behind the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last month, adding that London did not believe anyone else could do so, this brings the generally conservative British position toward Iran closer to the hard-line US position on its sabotage activities in the region.
The British position on Tehran’s destabilizing activities in the region does not seem less ferocious than the French position, which is losing its flexibility and is increasingly close to the US position after Paris refused to separate between the nuclear deal with Iran and its ballistic program. The question posed in the context of the Iranian threat to Britain: Will Tehran really detain British tankers?
Iranian Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies