On July 22nd, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt briefed the British Parliament on the situation surrounding the UK tanker by Iran.
In a House of Commons approximately 20% full, the UK top diplomat spoke of a plan to establish a joint European Task Force to patrol the Persian Gulf and guarantee security against “Iranian aggression.”
He said that “in the last 48 hours” discussions had taken place with a number of allies to form the protection force, and further talks are to be held later in the week.
The Foreign Secretary said: “It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing this increased international presence in the Gulf because the focus of our diplomacy has been on de-escalating tensions in the hope that such changes would not be necessary.”
It is showing how seriously the “Iran threat” is taken, as the top diplomat of the UK announces a Joint Task Force that could potentially, and by complete accident, start a war (let’s not be UK Media and say “WORLD WAR 3”) and the quorum isn’t even 50%.
Jeremy Hunt further showed that Western politics is mostly established on completely ignoring what the opposite side’s claims, but also not providing any evidence to back up your own claims. He said that Tehran had flagrantly flouted the law in capturing the Stena Impero in international waters.
He also attempted to create some distance between Britain and the United States.
Washington has broken with London on Iran policy as a result of President Donald Trump’s rejection of the international accord designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord last year and re-imposed harsh sanctions, which have had a severe effect on Iran’s economy.
The foreign secretary said the planned European mission was not part of the U.S. policy of exerting “maximum pressure” on Iran.
And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo too said that “the responsibility … falls to the United Kingdom to take care of their ships.”
It was unclear which countries will join the protection force or how quickly it can be put in place. Hunt said he had consulted with foreign ministers of Oman, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Spain and Denmark.
No EU state had seized a ship using force in seas over a sanctions breach before and Tehran accused London of acting on US instructions.
But Jeremy Hunt told MPs that Iran “had no right to obstruct the ship’s passage, let alone board her” under international law.
“It was therefore an act of state piracy. We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region,” he said.
“If Iran continues on this dangerous path, they must accept the price will be a larger western military presence in the waters along their coastline, not because we wish to increase tensions but simply because freedom of navigation is a principle which Britain and its allies will always defend,” he added.
Fabian Hamilton, the shadow minister for peace, warned of a “tit-for-tat cycle of actions”. The Labour minister questioned why a British-flagged tanker was “left so hopelessly unprotected in the Strait of Hormuz” when anyone with any understanding of the issue could see that “this was exactly” how Iranians would respond following the seizure of one of their tankers.
But, Iran’s “aggressive actions” were unacceptable even for the Minister of Peace:
“Iran’s actions in recent weeks in the Strait of Hormuz have been utterly unacceptable and should be condemned from all sides.”
The UK Chamber of Shipping backed the foreign secretary with Bob Sanguinetti, the chief executive officer, saying:
“We welcome the announcement of a joint European maritime mission to protect British and European interests in the Strait of Hormuz. While the European maritime mission is a step in the right direction, It is imperative that the UK government continues to protect the interests of British-flagged ships in the Gulf while the mission is assembled. This means formulating a mechanism that will provide confidence and security to allow ships to pass through the straits safely and securely. We continue to work closely with government to achieve this,” he added.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, after chairing her final COBRA meeting, through a spokesperson said that the UK and its interests needed to be protected, and that the country had the capability to do so.
“We always said that we will ensure we have all the capability that we need in order to protect the UK and serve its interests. We have the largest military budget in Europe. We are investing in a world-class royal navy”, the spokesperson said.
“The high volume of ships moving through the Strait of Hormuz – up to 30 ships covering more than 100 nautical miles – makes it impossible to escort vessels individually. We already work closely with international partners to ensure a co-ordinated effort to defend freedom of navigation, this includes sharing information on threats to shipping and offering mutual protection for each other’s vessels,” he added.
On the same day, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif alleged that Boris Johnson, who is slated to be the UK’s next Prime Minister could be under the influence of US National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Make no mistake:
Only prudence and foresight can thwart such ploys.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 21, 2019
Regardless, it is worth considering what sort of a Joint Task Force the EU can muster to guarantee security in the Persian Gulf.
As per Jeremy Hunt, in addition to the UK itself, he had spoke to Oman, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Spain and Denmark. The US already has a presence there, with more likely en route.
The UK Royal Navy has 79 vessels in total. This includes ships under construction at the time and awaiting active deployment. It has 2 aircraft carriers, 6 destroyers, 5 frigates, 2 assault ships, 10 submarines, 15 mine hunters, 24 patrol ships, 5 survey ships. In general, the numbers of the UK Navy have significantly gone down since 1982-3.
Other than that, France and Spain have a naval force that’s not … somewhat comedic. Every other country’s naval assets cannot be considered as a significant asset in any sort of peace-keeping mission.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Gulf Conflict Report: Prospects Of War Between Iran And U.S.
- UK Media Found ‘Russian Trace’ In Recent Tanker Seizure By Iran