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Could British Incompetence Lead America To War With Iran?

Stena Impero
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard released dramatic video on Saturday showing commandos carrying machine guns and wearing face masks rappelling fro​m a helicopter to the deck of the British tanker Stena Impero reported Mark Moore of the New York Post.

I​ran said commandeering the ship was in retaliation for Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. Gibraltar said the Iranian vessel, the Grace 1, seized by marines in a daring landing in darkness off the coast of the British territory, was suspected of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

The British frigate HMS Montrose was about an hour away from the Stena Impero – too far to intervene, although the British were in radio contact with the Iranians and the tanker and demanded the Iranians allow the tanker to transit the area unimpeded.

President Trump responded calmly, noting the new Iranian provocation confirmed his warnings about Iran. Trump said: “This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran. Trouble. Nothing but trouble. It goes to show you I was right about Iran.”

As our friend Fred Fleitz, President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy, said in a recent column for Fox News, a major reason Trump hates the 2015 nuclear deal is that despite the huge concessions the Obama administration offered Iran in the agreement – including over $150 billion in sanctions relief – Iran’s behavior significantly worsened after the deal was announced.

The seizure on Friday of the Stena Impero comes as the US said it downed an Iranian drone in the Gulf of Hormuz last Thursday – in the latest in the escalating tensions in the region.

Obviously, the seizure of the British-operated tankers raises tensions in the Persian Gulf region. But, said Mr. Fleitz, it also will do enormous damage to Iran’s interests by driving European leaders toward President Trump.

The good news is that so far Fred Fleitz is right, and the Iranian hijacking of the Stena Impero seems to be the kind of hitting too close to home proof needed to boost European support for President Trump’s Iran policy.

The bad news is that British incompetence in failing to anticipate the hijacking provided intimidating proof to others of Iran’s capabilities and intentions.

Reuters reports Gibraltar denies that it was ordered to detain the Grace 1, which was carrying up to 2.1 million barrels of oil, but several diplomatic sources said the United States asked the United Kingdom to seize the vessel. And after the British seized the Grace 1, the Iranians vowed vengeance on the British.

While Iran’s official line is that its capture of the Stena Impero was because of safety issues, Reuters reports it has done little to hide that the move was retaliatory. The tactics it used — with masked troops rappelling from helicopters — matched those the British had used two weeks before when they seized the Grace 1.

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani spelled it out more clearly on Sunday, telling a parliament session: “The Revolutionary Guards responded to Britain’s hijacking of the Iranian tanker.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, blamed Washington and National Security Advisor John Bolton for luring Britain into conflict.

So, let’s be clear about what’s going on here: The British, due to incompetence or the current chaos in their government or both, failed to closely escort their tanker, even after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship and gives it a legal appearance… Iran and those who believe in our system will not leave such vicious deeds unanswered.”

The Iranians have now made a point of showing the British and the world that they have the same capabilities as the old imperial power, and that they are not afraid to use them. Iran is not Argentina and the last time the British went to war they did not need or ask for significant US military support. Now, however, based on their own diminished capabilities, the British have few good alternatives short of the outright capitulation of exchanging the Grace 1 for the Stena Impero, meaning any military response would, perforce, involve the United States.

George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie's and is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns. A member of American MENSA, he served on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle, as Director of Policy and Communication for former Congressman Adam Putnam (FL-12) then Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, and as spokesman for Rep. Mac Thornberry former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

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