Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, on Wednesday, suggested that his nation might be willing to release the British Stena Impero oil tanker that it seized on the Strait of Hormuz last week in exchange for the U.K.’s release of an Iranian supertanker that was impounded by Britain in the Straight of Gibraltar three weeks ago.
Rouhani’s quid-pro-quo offer suggests the British tanker was seized as a form of leverage and tool to regain its own property. Iran claimed that the Stena violated international maritime law.
“We do not seek the continuation of tension with some European countries,” Rouhani reportedly said in comments carried on his website after his appearance at the Wednesday cabinet session.
“Should they be committed to international frameworks and give up their wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proportional response from Iran,” he said.
On video footage of the July 19 seizure of the British vessel, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) marine could be heard shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great as the tanker was taken in what Rouhani lauded on Wednesday as “professional and brave.”
“The IRGC courageously seized the British ship because it had refused all the orders and warnings. They did a very accurate, professional and brave job. and I believe that the whole world must be grateful to the Islamic Revolution Guards for ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani said.
The IRGC’s seizure of the British tanker arrived just one day after Iran’s state-run television reported that the Corps had seized an unspecified foreign tanker it accused of smuggling oil. However, some analysts were skeptical of the move and accused Iran of pushing the claim to cause a surge in oil prices.
Also, one day before the British tanker was seized, the United State announced that it will send approximately 500 troops to Saudi Arabia in what is being interpreted as a show of strength to Iran.
This week, Britain announced plans to develop and deploy a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” to safeguard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
It remains to be seen how Britain’s newly-elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson will respond to Rouhani, which will be one of his earliest and most significant tests of diplomatic strength.
The fate of dual British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been languishing in an Iranian prison on unfounded espionage charges for three years, is another important diplomatic issue that Johnson’s administration will be tasked with addressing and solving.
Baghdad Bombings Could Give Biden Administration Excuse to Increase US Presence in Iraq
The first major Baghdad bombings in three years happen on Joe Biden’s first full day as president.
Two suicide bombings rocked a marketplace in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding over 100. As of now no one has claimed responsibility, although Iraqi military leaders suspect the Islamic State, the paramilitary group often referred to as “ISIS” in years past.
Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji said that the first suicide bomber shouted in the marketplace that he was not feeling well, and when a group of people drew near him, he detonated an explosive belt he was wearing. Not long after that, a second suicide bomber then detonated his own belt several feet away.
This was Baghdad’s first major bombing in three years, and interestingly enough it came on the first full day of Joe Biden’s presidency. Even the Associated Press pointed out that “many questioned the timing of the attack.”
“The US-led coalition recently ceased combat activities and is gradually drawing down its troop presence in Iraq,” the article reads.
The Jerusalem Post also writes that the bombings provide Biden with “an early opportunity to show US support for Iraq.”
“Biden has said that the US is ‘back’ and the world can expect the US to care again about foreign policy and work multilaterally to solve problems,” said the Post.
All this leads many to believe that the Biden administration will once again increase the US presence in Iraq, thereby dragging us deeper into a situation that the Trump administration had been eager to get out of.
This is not the first time that a Middle Eastern tragedy has coincided with a change of power. In March of 2017, two months after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Assad government in Syria allegedly used chemical weapons against its own people, leading to international outcry and the Trump administration’s unilateral decision to launch an April 7 missile strike on the Syrian government’s Shayrat Airbase.
Bombings and attacks have also been known to happen shortly after the US announces commitments to scale back military operations.
Perhaps groups like the Islamic State feel emboldened by such announcements and power changes. In any case, the military-industrial complex often uses such attacks to justify never-ending involvement in the Middle East. As of now, however, it still remains to be seen what they will do as a result of Thursday’s bombings, if anything. Fingers crossed that it’s not much.
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