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Traffic in the Strait of Hormuz compromised. Europeans in support of London

(B2) The boarding by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz provoked cascading reactions

The tanker Stena Impero was sailing towards Saudi Arabia when the Iranian military intervened in the afternoon of Friday (July 19) to stop it. As in the parade, masked men from the commandos of the Revolutionary Guards descended along a rope from the helicopter which transported them, while a speedboat surrounded the boat. The video delivered by the Iranians is quite impressive.

On the Iranian side, this intervention is justified by a collision of the ship flying the British flag, but owned by a Swedish shipowner, with a fishing boat. But it is more certainly the boarding in an identical manner by the British navy of an Iranian ship off the coast of Gibraltar, suspected of oil trafficking to Syria, which is rather the cause. The ship, as well as its crew of 23 sailors, largely Indian, but also Russian, Latvian and Filipino, were diverted to Iran.

A hostile and aggressive act

The British convened a Cobra committee (emergency meeting of key security officials). “ It is a hostile, aggressive [and] illegal act confirmed the British Minister of Defense, Penny Mordaunt, on Sky News. " The vessel was at that time in Omani waters. » The British frigate HMS Montrose which is currently in the strait was barely an hour from Stena Impero, she said, thus denying the supposed proximity of the royal frigate: ten minutes according to the press.

Iran has gone in the opposite direction of de-escalation

« I just spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif (I expressed to him) my extreme disappointment after he assured me last Saturday that Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation [and] they behaved in the opposite » Underlined Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, via Twitter, late this Saturday morning. And to add: “ Ships need and want to be protected ».

The support of several European countries in London

Several countries (France, Germany, Netherlands) gave their full support to the UK. the Quai d'Orsay thus condemned firmly » the seizure of the ship and requested the release of the ship and the crew, as of " respect the freedom of navigation ". An identical request on the European side for the two ships seized by Tehran. A second ship, the MV Mesdar, flying the Liberian flag and British property, had been captured. But he was quickly released and returned to Saudi Arabia, his original destination.

A sensitive moment

This affair comes at a very sensitive time, when the Iranian nuclear agreement is in danger. Washington continues to put its pressure on and Tehran, unhappy at not receiving the dividends of its efforts in respecting the agreement, has decided to exceed, in a limited way (for the moment), the authorized quotas of heavy water . “ In an already tense situation, this development carries risks of escalation. This undermines ongoing work to find a way to resolve current tensions » reacts Maja Kocijancic, the spokesperson for the European diplomatic service, on behalf of the High Representative of the EU.


The fate of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Another source of concern for the British is the fate of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters foundation, with dual British and Iranian nationality, arrested on April 3, 2016 and detained in Iran for more than three years. Jeremy Hunt did not hide his concern about his transfer this week in a Revolutionary Guard hospital. We hoped this meant she needed medical treatment, but the fact that she was cut off from contact with her family is a huge cause for concern for us. »

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).