By Hamid Bayati

Britain confused on policies toward Tehran: easing the tension or increasing them

July 22, 2019

Britain has had a rough week after Iran seized British oil tanker in the strait of Hormoz. It seems that the British are confused what policy to adopt; first, British Secretary of State for Defense described the capture “hostile” and then, the British Foreign Secretary announced that they want to ease the tensions with Iran.  

British government second emergency meeting

The British officials made the remarks after their second emergency meeting on Saturday.  After the meeting, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote on Twitter that they want to reduce the tensions; however, he claimed that the capture of Stena Impero ship in Oman waters was in breach of international laws. 

According to Hunt, the British government emergency meeting has discussed the safety of shipping in the Strait of Hormoz and it will submit the results to the Parliament on Monday. 

On the other hand, Penny Mordaunt, the British Secretary of State has described the seizure a “hostile action.” Mordaunt has also claimed that while the British ship was being captured, another British ship which was sent to the Persian Gulf was at a 60 minute distance from them. 

Tension between Iran and Britain escalated after Britain seized an Iranian oil supertanker called Grace 1 in Gibraltar on July 4th. 

Britain and Gibraltar claimed that the supertanker was carrying oil to Syria, but the Iranian government announced that the tanker was heading another destination. 

After the illegal seizure of Grace 1 oil tanker, Iranian officials decided to resolve the issue through diplomacy and they had a meeting with Gibraltar officials but some other entities interfered in the matter and Gibraltar announced that the oil tanker will not be released. 

After this, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that the British government’s illegal seizure of the Iranian supertanker was an act of “piracy” and will not go “unanswered”.

Testing a failed plan
Hardliners in Britain are now saying that more pressure must be placed on Iran and some are even proposing the renewal of sanctions; however, this is a poor strategy that has been already tested by their closest ally, the United States, and has never come to any success.
Britain is proposing that the European Union puts more pressure on Iran; however, London and Brussels are not at their best relationship right now as they have disagreements over a variety of subjects including Brexit. 

Relying on U.S. empty promises 

Britain and Gibraltar who seized Grace 1 for satisfying U.S., are now in a conundrum. Washington, who first encouraged Britain to capture the Iranian oil tanker, has now bailed on Britain and is not having any intensions to support Britain in releasing its tanker that has been seized by Iran.  

Now, London has resorted to the United Nations Security Council to release its ship. Obviously, if the western countries take on a hostile stand toward Iran in this situation, it will only exacerbate the security of the Persian Gulf region and will be to the benefit of no one. 
The only strategy that can take Britain out of this crisis is to stay away from U.S. and try to resolve the issues with Iran directly. 

Anyway, right now, Britain’s internal situation is also unsteady as the country will have a new Prime Minister in few days, so whatever the British officials say now cannot be trusted, because the country’s cabinet is changing and the new cabinet may have new members who have other opinions.  

The West and the Middle-Eastern countries must be patient

What is interesting now is that some countries like Bahrain are now acting like the seized ship belonged to them! 

Taking such a firm and aggressive stance is very strange because the Arab countries around the Persian Gulf don’t have a steady situation themselves and are in constant conflict with one another, each trying to topple the others. 

Europe is now struggling to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but the hardliners such as the hawkish B-team (comprised of US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan) may try to exaggerate the seizure of this ship by Iran and take it as an advantage to incite Britain and Europe into taking a more aggressive position toward Iran. 

Now, Britain and Europe have only two options. First is to join U.S. who is now alone in its battles with Iran, or to be patient and try to resolve the issue through diplomacy. 

Following U.S. is obviously the wrong decision as U.S. has taken this path before and leads to nowhere but failure. 

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