Lessons from the Tanker Saga

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mahmoud

Muharram 02, 1441 2019-09-01

Special Reports

by Tahir Mahmoud (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 7, Muharram, 1441)

The August 26 announcement that Iran has sold 2.1 million barrels of crude oil on board the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya-1 is another slap in the face of US arrogance. It is also a blow to US-imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Previously named Grace 1, the oil tanker was detained by British Marines in an act of piracy off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. It was done on the orders of the Americans.

The reason advanced by the British was that the tanker was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union (EU) sanctions. There are several problems with this allegation. First, Iran is not a member of the EU and, therefore, under no obligation to adhere to EU restrictions. Even the Europeans accept this. Second, Iran was not delivering oil to Syria because there is no port in Syria that can accommodate such a huge tanker, as pointed out by Iranian deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi. Where the oil was being delivered to is none of anyone else’s business, as Iran pointed out.

The British had to retreat from their act of medieval piracy only because Iran took a firm stand. It seized the British tanker Stena Impero on July 19 because it was dumping oil wastes, polluting Iranian waters. Further, it was in violation of several maritime laws in the restricted waterways of the Strait of Hormuz. Its transponder was off clearly indicating malevolent intent. Second, it entered the narrow waterway through the exit point. With its transponder off, it could easily have collided with another vessel. And it did, although not another tanker but an Iranian fishing boat. The fishing boat sent a distress signal to the oil tanker but received no response. It then sent a distress signal to the Ports and Maritime Organization in southern Hormozgan Province seeking help because a number of people were injured as a result of the collision with the massive British tanker. The Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization dispatched Revolutionary Guards naval boats to investigate. It was then that the British vessel was captured and taken into port under escort.

The British wanted a trade-off of tankers, an offer Iran immediately rebuffed. The two cases were not the same. Taking Iran’s oil tanker was an act of piracy; detaining the British tanker was an act of safety since it was in violation of not one but several maritime laws.

While many people have applauded Iran’s bold move for standing up to UK/NATO bullying, it is disturbing that the initial British act of piracy that initiated this crisis undermines the entire structure of international maritime law.

The tanker crisis that highlighted Iran’s resolve in standing its ground against NATO bullying will serve as a stabilizing factor in the region. It will tame Western ambitions and militarism in the Muslim East and increase their oversight of the potentates in the Persian Gulf.

The autocratic regimes in the Persian Gulf and Zionist Israel are the primary instigators of all-out war in the region. The Arabian potentates know that their pleasure-loving incompetent armies will not be doing the fighting. What they fail to realize is that if war breaks out, their built on sand statelets will suffer the most. It appears that Western ruling elites have understood this as well as the fact that Iran means business when it says it will resist and protect its interests. This aspect is probably going to force Western regimes to be more cautious and restrain their Arabian potentates from further mischief.

The tanker crisis also highlights the emergence of a new political reality; Western powers no longer have monopoly on the use of force. This will prove a positive factor in creating stability in the Muslim East. When a bully knows that there is no one to challenge him, he gets emboldened and becomes even more aggressive. Once he gets a bloody nose, he adopts a more cautious approach and usually stops.

It must be borne in mind that the primary reason the Lebanese-Palestinian border has remained relatively peaceful is because the Zionist entity knows that if it attacks Lebanon, there will be serious consequences. In January 2015, Israel tried to upset the established balance but was shown its place by Hizbullah when it eliminated three heavily armed Zionist soldiers. Since then, Israel has been much more cautious, notwithstanding Benjamin Netanyahu’s grandstanding in the last week of August in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. This has to do with his domestic compulsions as he heads into a messy election.

The political and diplomatic moves regarding the tanker seizures show that Iran’s calculated steps of resistance to Western bullying has paid off, as the invitation to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to the recent G7 summit illustrates.

Iran has once again demonstrated that in dealing with Western powers, one does not win respect or a seat at the table by complying with their demands. It comes through resistance to bullying. This reality is starting to sink into the minds of many influential people in the developing world as well. In learning a lesson from the first generation of Muslims around the Prophet (pbuh) at Madinah, they were only called to a ceasefire (at Hudaybiyah) when they had demonstrated beyond a doubt their power parity on the field of battle with the powers that be. Short of that, insofar as worldly odds go, there would have been no reason for the aristocratic Makkan mushriks to entertain any discussions with the nascent Islamic reality in the Peninsula.

And this is what Islamic Iran, Hizbullah, Ansarallah, and other Muslim resistance movements are proving today: show them that you have power — economic, political, military, and above all, ideological — that you are not afraid to leverage it for the advancement of principle, that you are ready to go to war should the circumstances demand it, and that you are willing to die to achieve your objectives, and then — only then — will their aggression come to heel.

However, the crisis in Venezuela and the Western approach to them show that NATO powers will continue with aggressively pushing their agenda as much as they can. The fact that the NATO bloc has not learned from its tragic mistakes in Syria and are trying to repeat them elsewhere is disturbing.

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