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US seeks allies to outsource hunt for Iranian oil tankers

Washington has a new tactic in its ongoing campaign against Tehran: outsource the naval blockade of Iran and have allies seize oil tankers in international waterways – all in the name of “freedom of navigation,” of course.

The latest out of Washington is that the US is looking to put together a “coalition” that would “ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb,” as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said on Tuesday. These are the waterways connecting the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, and the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, respectively.

The US is in contact with “a number of countries” to see which ones “have the political will” to support the project, the Marine general added. 

A legitimate policing project, however, would easily get UN approval and not require some kind of revamped “coalition of the willing” that the US used to illegally invade Iraq in 2003. Not to mention that Iran itself has welcomed a truly international security effort.

At a guess, two of those countries might be the UK and Egypt, judging by their recent seizures of tankers carrying Iranian oil. The British boarding of the Panamanian-flagged Grace 1 in Gibraltar last week is well known. Days prior, however, Egyptian marines had seized a Ukrainian-flagged vessel in the Suez Canal, the Qatari outlet Al-Araby recently reported. While Tehran has been quiet on the Egyptian seizure, its officials have condemned the taking of Grace 1 as “piracy, pure and simple” and insisted that such behavior sets a terrible precedent and must stop immediately.

he UK is a major US ally – and though its navy is a shadow of its former imperial glory, it appears to be capable of taking on unarmed cargo ships just fine. One would think Britain would try to sort out its own affairs first – from who will be the next prime minister to Brexit – before serving as Washington’s cat’s paw, but it wouldn’t be the first time logic has lost out at Whitehall.

The Gibraltar seizure has even some prominent former EU officials scratching their heads, though, since the UK is still technically party to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and should not be bound by unilaterally imposed US sanctions.

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