If there was any doubt about the extent to which the regime in Tehran is intent on disrupting international maritime trade and creating a crisis in the global oil and energy markets, then simply look no further than at its actions on Wednesday in the Strait of Hormuz. There, in internationally recognised commercial shipping lanes, a British-flagged tanker — British Heritage — had her passage impeded by three Iranian gunboats who attempted to intercept the mercantile vessel.
The Iranian’s audacious act was only foiled by the intervention of the warship HMS Montrose that was forced to train her guns on the intercepting gunboats and issue a warning to cease and desist lest the incident be escalated. Thankfully, the Iranians understood the implications of guns trained on them and backed down.
This very serious incident and targeting of the tanker comes just weeks after another serious incident, where two tankers suffered explosions and damage as a result of actions taken by Iranian forces, and an earlier incident where four tankers were attacked in international waters off the eastern coast of the UAE.
This brazen act of piracy in attempting to intercede and detain the British Heritage comes just days after British marines seized an Iranian oil tanker in the Mediterranean as it attempted to violate international sanctions on Syrian oil. Those are sanctions that have been approved by the UN Security Council and are legitimate. If anything, the latest attempt by the regime in Tehran clearly illustrates that it has nothing but contempt for the rule of international law, either in the application of sanctions against its ally in Damascus, or indeed on the high seas, where it actions were fully weighed to cause disruption and chaos for oil and trade passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
But should we be surprised by this latest irresponsible action by Tehran? Hardly, given that it has continued to defy the norms of international behaviour by supporting Al Houthis in Yemen, spreading sedition up and down the Arabian Gulf, disrupting the stability of Iraq, propping up the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria, and in unbalancing civil society in Lebanon.
Both in the Bab Al Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has deliberately interfered with vessels in international maritime waters, attempting to destabilise the region. It is time the country mends its behaviour and de-escalates the situation for the stability of the region.