Iran Seizes Oil Tanker, JCPOA Talks Could Prevent Catastrophic War
If the JCPoA can be salvaged, the world may avoid war in Iran.
“Iran has seized an oil tanker it claimed was carrying 1 million liters of ‘smuggled fuel,’ state news agency Press TV said on Thursday, before later releasing a video purporting to show the tanker,” CNN reported early Thursday morning. “The semi-official Fars news agency said Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces ambushed the tanker, carrying 12 people on board, on Sunday.”
IRGC officials stated the described seized ship is a foreign tanker and was taken in an area south of Larak, a small island in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran claimed it received a distress signal from the ship on Sunday but upon boarding the ship discovered it was part of a smuggling operation. It is unclear who the ship belongs to, though the U.S. has been reportedly investigating the disappearance of a Panamanian ship in the region.
These events further escalate the tension between Iran, United States and the United Kingdom as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPoA] is currently undergoing debate among European Union leaders after Iran stated they would begin enriching uranium over the agreed 3.67% to 4.5%. While that is lower than the 80% threshold required for weapons-grade uranium, the announcement could lead to the complete dissolution of the original nuclear agreement – a deal the U.S. withdrew from under Trump but Iran has claimed it wanted to save with the help of the deal’s other signatories.
“Iranian state television did not at first identify the seized vessel but said it was intercepted on Sunday and was involved in smuggling some 1 million liters (264,000 gallons) of Iranian fuel. Iran did not identify the nationalities of the crew,” said the Associated Press concerning the incident.
Other Recent Events
Over recent months, Iranian media has claimed that approximate 8 million liters of their fuel is smugged daily through Iran’s borders to be sold in countries with far higher oil prices. Which may be the cause of six attacks on oil tankers over the past several weeks in the region.
U.S. officials have blamed Iran for those attacks, the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, and undiplomatic rhetoric from clerics and government officials; including the President of Iran.
The U.K. has also blamed Iran for an encounter between the Iranian Guard and the British Navy. As tensions escalated the U.K. sent additional warships to the region, while the United States deployed several thousand additional troops.
Iran has officially denied any involvement in the aforementioned events, but as stated previously they admit to seizing the vessel on Sunday.
What Could Happen Next
Despite recent comments made towards the U.K., Irani President Hassan Rouhani is attempting to use diplomacy through other European leaders, “Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran and France [Emmanuel Macron] spoke by telephone and discussed the most important bilateral, regional and international issues, stressing that efforts for safeguarding the JCPoA should be continued,” reads the Iranian President’s official website.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to keep all routes open for safeguarding the JCPoA,” President Rouhani said of the conversation with Macron. “The Iranian and European parties to the JCPoA must make efforts to take equal steps in saving the deal,” he said about a recent trip made by a French envoy to Iran.
“There are some in the United States who do not want efforts for saving the deal to be successful, an example of it is the recent decision by the U.S. Congress to steal over $1.5 billion of Iranian nation’s money. Europe should accelerate its efforts to ensure Iran’s legitimate interests are met, and the United States’ economic war is over,” Rouhani added.
“Unfortunately, there are always extremists who prevent other countries’ efforts for reaching peace, and the United States’ announcement about intensification of sanctions against Iran is in the same vein,” French President Macron said during his conference with Rouhani. “Sanctions by the United States have made problems for many countries’ commercial activities with Iran. France is very determined to resolve all problems regarding safeguarding the JCPoA, and this requires all parties’ efforts.”
If the JCPoA can be salvaged, the world may avoid war in Iran. However, if the deal does fall apart, neoconservatives within Donald Trump’s administration could push the United States President to begin a military conflict.
With the U.S. no longer being a party to the JCPoA, European and Iranian leaders will have to find common ground if catastrophe is to be prevented.