Iran seized last week two foreign tankers engaged, according to the country’s authorities, “in fuel smuggling in the Gulf”. Footage broadcast on Iranian television last Friday showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces seizing two ships. The seized tankers, Steven and Crown, flying the flags of Panama and Tanzania, were transporting “more than 1.5 million liters of Iranian oil and gas”, according to Iran. Thirty-seven crew members were reportedly handed over to the judicial authorities at the port of Mahshahr.
“Contraband fuel is the reason that Iran uses to justify the seizure of cargo ships or oil tankers to the international community,” explains David Rigoulet-Roze, ociate researcher at the IRIS and editor-in-chief of the magazine Strategic Orients. Because you need an alibi for something that resembles a form of piracy,” continues the doctor in political science.
For several years now, Iran engages in arrest of foreign commercial ships which cross the Persian Gulf then the Strait of Hormuz, an obligatory page for a quarter of the world’s crude oil production. This summer, at the height of this protracted crisis, the United States announced the dispatch of warships and fighter planes to dissuade Tehran from attacking the tankers. “Faced with this persistent threat, the Americans are strengthening their presence but it is also an urance given to the Gulf petromonarchies who were very worried,” continues David Rigoulet-Roze. The Iranians, for their part, want to call into question this “Pax Americana” and demonstrate the fact that they are the “guardians of the Gulf”, in every sense of the word. We must also remember that Iran cannot export its oil. They therefore believe that they are wronged and that the oil transiting through the Strait of Hormuz would constitute a form of smuggling. But neither Iran nor the United States has any interest in this degenerating into conflict.” Find our video on tensions in the Persian Gulf at the top of the article.