Iran on ‘dangerous path’: UK warns British ships to avoid Strait of Hormuz

British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero was seized due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat, Tehran claimed on Saturday, July 20, 2019.19 (Vesselfinder.com/AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019
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Iran on ‘dangerous path’: UK warns British ships to avoid Strait of Hormuz

  • Iran had taken a ‘dangerous path’: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
  • France has expressed full solidarity with Britain

LONDON: London Saturday advised British ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for “an interim period” following Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation,” a government spokeswoman said following an overnight meeting of the government’s COBRA emergencies committee to discuss the crisis.

“We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.”

She noted comments by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier that “there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved.”

She added that there will be further meetings over the weekend and “we remain in close contact with our international partners.”

Hunt said on Saturday that he was worried that Iran had taken a “dangerous path” after it seized a British-flagged tanker on Friday.

“Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria,” Hunt said on Twitter.


“As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.

In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he wrote that he spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but "they have behaved in the opposite way."

He wrote: "This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must & will be protected."

Hunt also said that Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker raises very serious questions for British and international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
The British government's emergency response committee COBRA discussed the situation at length and a statement will be made to parliament on Monday on further measures Britain will take, he told reporters.

Iran analyst Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News: "Instead of acting as a rational state, Iran is becoming more aggressive and violent. Tehran is attempting to further destabilize the region in order to impose insecurity and fear and advance the regime’s revolutionary and parochial interests.

"The UK and other European governments must now focus their diplomatic efforts on countering the clear and present threat that aggressive Iranian behaviour across the region poses. It is time for the UK to move its efforts away from keeping the failing deal alive. It is time for Europe to switch off the life support for the JCPOA," he added.

Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker was allegedly due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat, the country’s state-run IRNA news agency said Saturday.

Also on Saturday, the UK Foreign Office said it summoned Iranian Charge d’Affaires after the incident. 

France, Germany and the wider European Union have expressed solidarity with Britain and has called on Iran to release tanker, calling the incident "deeply concerning."

The British navy seized Iran’s Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Friday it had seized the British-flagged Swedish-owned Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules.”

Iranian authorities alleged Saturday the ship had collided with a fishing boat. It said the tanker was now at anchor off the port of Bandar Abbas with all its crew aboard. The Indian and Philippine governments said they were working to get Iran to release nationals from the two countries who were on board a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Arabian Gulf.

India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said Saturday its diplomats were “in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation” of the 18 Indian crew members on the Stena Impero.

Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs also said its ambassador to Tehran was in contact with Iranian authorities to ensure the lone Filipino crew member’s safety and immediate release.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said there have been no reports of injuries among the crew.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency has said the other crew members consisted of three Russians and a Latvian.

 

Dedicated escorts

Action to contain Iran has already begun, and further developments will follow soon, Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, told Arab News.

“US Central Command has announced Operation Sentinel to keep watch and relay information quickly to ship operators,” he said. “The next step is that the US will fire upon IRGC naval vessels and aircraft as part of the rules of engagement.”

Seizing commercial vessels was an act of piracy and subject to international legal action, Karasik said. “So litigation is a major option, since Iran’s arguments are going to be fairly easy to reject because of the illicit nature of Iran's shipping.  The methods used by the IRGC, which is a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, open avenues to contend with this continuing threat to international shipping, especially in this critical region.

“Dedicated escorts in sea lanes will be a growing requirement in the short term. Specific vessels may be deemed more valuable for the IRGC to capture. Consequently, there is the possibility of hitting targets on Iranian territory, either through kinetics or cyberattack, to send a sharp message.  Cyberattack has already been used once. 

In addition, East Asian states who rely on the Gulf for their energy sources need to be compelled to tell Tehran to back down, as the longer this security situation continues, the more prices will rise for the Asian consumer.  

“The next steps will be crucial, especially by Europe, and specifically the UK, the primary target of the IRGC just now.

“The IRGC calculation is that the UK is weak at this moment, but the IRGC should know better than to underestimate the UK in this matter. UK and US actions are likely to become joint operations, especially if there is a requirement to protect shipping, and options have been in the policy books for years. The UK will also be keen to project its new presence ‘East of Suez.’

“In this specific environment, adjustments are being made to counter the measures that the IRGC is taking, and to roll them back.  These measures are going to be more public in the days and weeks ahead.  The forthcoming Bahrain maritime conference will help cement how shipping and security will mix, and mitigate IRGC threats to the international maritime industry in the current security environment.”    

 

(With Reuters)


‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface

Updated 19 September 2019

‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface

  • Time magazine posted the photo
  • Trudeausaid he should have known better

TORONTO: Canadian leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign was hit Wednesday by the publication of a yearbook photo showing him in brownface makeup at a 2001 costume party. The prime minister apologized and said “it was a dumb thing to do.”
Time magazine posted the photo, which it says was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts the then 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.
Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.
“I’m pissed off at myself, I’m disappointed in myself,” Trudeau told reporters traveling with him on his campaign plane.
The Canadian prime minister is but the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their younger days. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. Since then, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing blackface in college, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has publicly apologized for donning blackface during a college skit more than 50 years ago. None has resigned.
The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school’s annual dinner, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from “Aladdin.” The prime minister said it was not the first time he has painted his face; once, he said, he performed a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” during a talent show.
“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said. “I’m going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do.”
He said he has always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is “sometimes appropriate.”
“These are the situations I regret deeply,” Trudeau added.
The prime minister, who champions diversity and multiculturalism, said he didn’t consider it racist at the time but said society knows better now.
The photo’s publication could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Trudeau has been admired by liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the United States. His Liberal government has also strongly advocated free trade and legalized cannabis nationwide.
But the 47-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the criminal prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to multiple resignations earlier this year, causing a drop in the leader’s poll ratings.
Following the release of the brownface photo, Trudeau said he would talk to his kids in the morning about taking responsibility.
His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents, who took the prime minister to task for what they said was troubling behavior.
“It is insulting. Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live, for what their lived experiences are. I think he has to answer for it,” said Leftist New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban and the first visible minority to lead a national party.
Scheer, the opposition Conservative leader, said brownface was racist in 2001 and is racist in 2019.
“What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” Scheer said.
Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto, said he was “gobsmacked” at the development and wondered how it would land in Parliament.
“We’ll just have to see how the party reacts,” he said. “I’m very curious to know how Liberal members of Parliament that are black will react.”
How the scandal will affect Trudeau’s campaign remains in question. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he didn’t think the photo’s release would cause people to vote differently. Wiseman said race and blackface play a much bigger role in US politics than in Canada.
“I don’t think this will swing the vote, although the story will get a lot of media play for a couple of days,” Wiseman said. “The Liberals may very well lose the election — they almost certainly will not do as well as in 2015 — but this is not the type of scandal that will drive voters to the Conservatives.”