The captain and chief officer of the Iranian super tanker Grace 1 has been arrested by the police in Gibraltar. However, reasons for the arrest are not clear. Grace 1 was seized by the British Marines off the coasts of southern Spain last week allegedly for carrying around 2 million barrels of oil for Syria which is under the European Union (EU) sanctions.
According to the reports published in several media sites the Gibraltar police has seized documents and electronic devices off the ship for further investigation.
The seizure came despite the fact that EU sanctions do not have extraterritoriality. Iran had said that the tanker was not destined to Syria and the seizure was a move taken on behalf of the United States.
Iran claims the seizing of Grace 1 is a violation of International Law. It had called the UK envoy in Iran and registered a strong protest. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned the UK of repercussions for illegally seizing the tanker.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif said that “Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo.”
The arrest comes a day after the UK Ministry of Defence’s claim that three Iranian boats belonging to Iranian Islamic Republican Guards Corp (IRGC) tried to “impede the passage” of a commercial vessel British Heritage through the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday July 11.
According to the statement of the Ministry of Defence, the Islamic Republican Guards Corp (IRGC) boats were dispersed after HMS Montrose, a UK warship which was accompanying British Heritage, “verbally warned them”.
Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the UK. However, Spain too claims its sovereignty over it.
The captain and the chief officer are Indians. According to the reports, the charges against them have not been framed yet. The tanker is registered in Panama.
The arrest can trigger a fresh diplomatic tension in the region. The UK’s outright hostile stance will further erode the credibility of Europeans and their commitment towards saving the nuclear deal. Iran has already started breaching the limits set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Nuclear Deal on its nuclear program. It has warned that in case no concrete steps are taken by the Europeans in the next 60 days, Iran will breach more commitments. The move by Iran is a result of unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA, of which the UK is one of the signatories.
An unholy nexus
The collaboration between the US and UK in international politics has a long history. In the post Cold War period, the UK always sided with the US in all its wars in the Middle East. Its seizure of Iranian tanker and its allegations against Iran for attempting to seize its ships may be a part of the larger US policy of keeping the tension in the region alive.
Though the UK still declares its adherence to the JCPOA and has expressed the hope for a diplomatic solution, recently it agreed with Trump’s administration about Iranian threats in the region. The UK was the only country from Europe which agreed with the unsubstantiated US allegations of Iranian role in the attacks on the oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in May and June this year.
Brexit and recent diplomatic fiasco between the UK and the US over revelations of ambassador Kim Darroch’s unflattering remarks against Trump have created extra pressure on the UK to maintain its relations with the US. This can be seen as the real reason for over enthusiasm behind executing the US request to seize the Iranian tanker despite it being harmful for the standing and material interest of the UK in the world politics.