Iran’s Tanker Seizure Presents U.K. With Policy Dilemma

from The Wall Street Journal,

London and Tehran trade accusations as Britain grows further enmeshed in crisis pitting Iran against the U.S.

Britain’s decision to seize an Iranian tanker off the coast of its overseas territory of Gibraltar earlier this month is fast snowballing, dragging the country deeper into an escalating crisis between Iran and the West. Iran on Friday seized a British-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf, saying it had collided with a fishing vessel, a move widely seen as retaliation. On Saturday, the Stena Impero arrived in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas with its 23 crew members still on board. The U.K. government warned of a robust response, but Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stopped short of including military action, saying such a measure isn’t yet warranted. “Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation,” Mr. Hunt said on Saturday, adding that new unspecified measures against Iran would be presented to Parliament on Monday. Mr. Hunt said the British ship had been halted in Oman waters and forced into Iranian waters. “This is totally and utterly unacceptable,” he added. He wrote on Twitter that he had spoken with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif about his displeasure at Tehran’s moves. Iran’s chargé d’affaires in London was also summoned to the British foreign office. “This has 2 be about actions not words if we are to find a way through,” Mr. Hunt tweeted. “British shipping must & will be protected.” Mr. Zarif tweeted that “unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold [international] maritime rules.” He added: “UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US.”

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