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Saturday, 06 July 2019 01:35

UK CHOOSE US OVER E3 AND JCPOA AS IT SEIZES IRANIAN TANKER OVER SYRIA SANCTIONS

Written by Femi Ogunkolati

When the end came it came quickly an end that is to Irans policy of strategic patience. In a meticulous well planned and flawlessly executed operation, a detachment of Her Majesty's Royal Marines boarded and seized the Iranian oil tanker MTGrace 1 in waters off Gibraltar. It really did'nt need to be daring, the element of surprise was sufficient. We were told a party of 30 Royal Marines under the control of Gibraltar Customs and Police Officers secured the vessel in the early hours of the 4th of July. It is alleged that the vessel was carrying a crude oil cargo bound for Banyas refinery in Syria. The Gibraltar authorities said it had acted as it had reasonable grounds to suspect that the MT Grace 1 intended to breach EU sanctions.

The Gibraltar explanation is unconvincing especially given that in the 8 years the sanctions have been in place not one vessel has been intercepted. It is more likely the Spanish narrative is what happened. The seizure appears to have been co-ordinated at the behest of the US with the UK's assistance and therein lies the problem. At a time when the UK is seemingly attempting to convince Iran as a member of the E3 of its sincwrity in respect of circumventing US sanctions via INSTEX and keeping the JCPOA alive, this action exposes the UK's insincerity. The timing could not have been worse, which raises the question as to why now?. The Iranians would be forgiven for feeling it is one thing to not provide protection against US Sanctions under the JCPOA but entirely another assisting them to enforce sanctions militarily against you.

That such an action is unprecedent in the 8 years the sanctions have been in place, makes it unconcievable that deep consideration has not been given to it and to the likely effect such an act would have on the overall JCPOA. Is this a decision Theresa May would have made or either of the current or previous Foreign Ministers. One thing is for sure such a decision must have been agreed at the highest level of UK Government, whatever the wording of the communique delivered by the Gibraltar Minister. Is this decision an indication of the UK's post Brexit place in the world.

The Iranians would be justified in concluding the UK has made up its mind and given up all pretence of neutrality and sided with the US. Despite our ptotestations to the contrary, Theresa May must know by now her old trick of trying to ride two horses ends in ultimate folley. It is difficult to see how this will not escalate. If we are to believe comments emerging from Iran attributed to senior former commanders of the IRGC, it is a matter of time before Iran retaliate by seizing a British vessel. How much more preverse can it get when the UK begin to enforce sanctions for the EU at a time we cannot wait to leave the group and as a consequence create ramifications for ourselves long after we have left.

The Gibratar authorities insist they organised the vessel siezure " as a direct result only of it having reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel was acting in breach of
established EU sanctions against Syria”. From a strictly legal point of view they would have to have had sight of the vessel charterparty to identify the refinery as the consignee. For the cargo to be illegal under EU law the consignee would have to be a named sanctioned entity. there can be little doubt that this most recent action has been conceived to send a message to both Iran and its Syrian ally. Do Iran now put armed guards on their vessels as a precaution. They clearly need to stay out of Gibraltar waters. We are witnessing a very dangerous game. A game where it seems that US law now supercededes international law. Where this rules base world order is the gospel according to America.

As an interesting but no less significant aside. The Spanish are clearly incensed too. They believe the instructions came from the US and the UK carried out the seizure in what they contest are Spanish waters, This ignites a difficult situation as Spain have complained over the incursion said JosepBorrell Fontell the new EU Foreign Minister. British diplomats have however affirmed “It was done in observance of international law, and we have no doubt whatsoever that the government of Spain also supports the sanctions regime, even though we admit that both governments still have a pending dispute over the territory of Gibraltar. It seems that Spain felt the US should have informed them. when the UK informed Spain of the impending action, they erroneously imformed them that the action would take place in the Port of Gibraltar which is undisputed UK territory.

It is rare I find myself agreeing with Tucker Carlson the Fox News Commentator, but on this occasion he seems to have got it spot on. What is the agenda of the Neo Con
lobby in Washington. There are elements in the Trump Administration that will welcome an escalation, I am not certain Donald Trump is one of them. There seems to be an increasingly rogue foreign policy establishment in Washington led by Bolton, Pompeo and until recently Nikki Hayley, who are set on creating their own 'Gulf of Tonkin' moment. The Trump approach of "destructive disorder" has created a incoherent policy approach which basically allows any US Department free reign in dealing with the Iran situation, with no recourse to each other.

Given the history between the UK and Iran and its oil, it is hard to find a country outside the US more reviled than the UK by Iranians. The history which dates back to 1913 is a litany of unconscionable liberties culminating with the Mohammad MosaddeghI coup d'etat very obligingly declassified by the CIA a couple of years ago; which many commentators believe was instrumental in getting us to where we are now. To many Iranians this action is a stark reminder of those times. I suppose we should share a thought for poor old Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whatever remote possibility she might have had of being released as well and truly gone

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