The seizure of an Iranian oil tanker on the high seas off the Rock of Gibraltar was one of the last acts of Mrs May’s government in July. The decision of her successors to release it is one of the first by the Boris Johnson team. The new Prime Minister has clearly heeded wiser counsel this time round.
Technically it was a Gibraltar court that ended the crisis. But Gibraltar is only an autonomous “overseas territory” much like the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Ultimately the decision came from the London Government.
The seizure of the Iranian vessel was a rash act that was plainly done at the bidding of US imperialism. It was a provocation that led to further confrontations between the Iranian authorities and Western shipping in the Persian Gulf while undermining European efforts to salvage the nuclear deal that the Americans walked out of in May 2018.
The May Government said the ship was bound for Syria but this wasn’t true. Her ministers said that the Royal Marines were enforcing European Union sanctions against Syria. This wasn’t true either.
Everyone knows that the ship was detained at the request of the Americans who have stepped up their economic warfare against the Islamic Republic in a renewed bid to provoke regime-change in Iran. But the detention of the ship and its crew in Gibraltar only heightened tension in the Persian Gulf.
The Iranians first response was to call for the immediate and unconditional release of their ship and its crew. The second was the seizure of a British vessel with the warning of plenty more to come if their demands were not heeded.
Last weekend’s decision by the Gibraltar Supreme Court to ignore last minute American objections and release the tanker on assurance that the cargo will not be sent to Syria will, hopefully, lead to the release of the British ship held by the Islamic Republic and close this fraught chapter in Anglo-Iranian relations.
The Iranian ship should never have been seized in the first place. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.