Ankit Panda: What Really Happened in the Persian Gulf on April 28, 2015?

USS_Farragut;99_Turn_Burn

Ankit Panda writes: A 65,000 ton, Danish-owned, Singapore-chartered, container ship, en route to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia, manned mostly by Eastern European and Asian sailors, is intercepted, boarded, and confiscated by the Iranian navy, prompting a U.S. destroyer to investigate.*

“Iran’s reasons for seizing the ship were at first unclear. Speculation abounded that the incident was a show of force intended to strike back at the United States after it sent the USS Theodore Roosevelt to intercept an Iranian arms shipment to Yemen’s Houthis last week.” 

That wasn’t an anecdote from Tom Friedman’s next book on globalization–it’s a rough description of what took place on Tuesday, April 28, in the strategically important sea lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.

“Additionally, others suggested that the seizure could have been a move by hardliners opposing Iran’s negotiations with the West over its nuclear program  –  an attempt to spark a broader crisis to derail those talks.”

Allow me to get into the details:

The shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz have long been highlighted as a potential flashpoint amid the simmering geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran. Its waters are of particular geostrategic significance given that over a third of the world’s petroleum traded by sea passes through the region. Iran has repeatedly emphasized its dominance over the waters, threatening to blockade the strait in a time of crisis. Today, we saw an acute manifestation of Iran’s audacity when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) seized and escorted the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Maersk Tigris, a shipping vessel belonging to Denmark’s A.P. Moller–Maersk Group and chartered by Singapore-based Rickmers Shipmanagement, toward the Iranian port at Bandar Abbas.

[Read the full text here, at The Diplomat]

The incident sparked a response by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), which ordered the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that was 60 miles from the point of the Tigris’ interception, to respond to the vessel’s distress signal. The incident took place as Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif led a delegation to New York City for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the United Nations, meeting with Western diplomats on the sidelines to discuss the ongoing P5+1 talks over his country’s nuclear program.

Map depicting the MV Maersk Tigris’ original path toward the UAE and diversion after being intercepted by the IRGCN. (Source: marinetraffic.com)

Map depicting the MV Maersk Tigris’ original path toward the UAE and diversion after being intercepted by the IRGCN. (Source: marinetraffic.com)

Saudi Arabia-backed, UAE-based Al Arabiya was among the first sources to break the news in English. It reported that Iran had fired warning shots (true) and seized a U.S.-flagged vessel (false). Nevertheless, the initial reports sparked considerable online panic at the prospect that the United States and Iran could be headed for a major confrontation. The report also noted that the crew of the ship numbered 34 and were American. Needless to say, U.S. citizens being held against their will by Iran hits a raw nerve for the United States given certain historical events. We’ve since learned, thanks to Reuters, that the Tigris’ has a crew of 24, most of whom hail “from Eastern Europe and Asia.” In the process of the seizure, the IRGCN fired across the bow of the ship. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told CNN that “the master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris.”

Iran’s reasons for seizing the ship were at first unclear. Speculation abounded that the incident was a show of force intended to strike back at the United States after it sent the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) to intercept an Iranian arms shipment to Yemen’s Houthis last week. Additionally, others suggested that the seizure could have been a move by hardliners opposing Iran’s negotiations with the West over its nuclear program  –  an attempt to spark a broader crisis to derail those talks…. (read more)

The Diplomat

* Hat-tip to Jeffrey Lewis for highlighting the multi-national absurdity of the situation.

 


One Comment on “Ankit Panda: What Really Happened in the Persian Gulf on April 28, 2015?”

  1. Centinel2012 says:

    Reblogged this on Centinel2012 and commented:
    There is much going on here that have consequences that are not good associated with them.


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