World View: Iran Seizes Cargo Vessel in the Strait of Hormuz

The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Iran seizes cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz
  • Greece’s PM Tsipras desperately seeks financial crisis solution

Iran seizes cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz

Iranian army troops wearing ghillie camouflage suits in a parade in Tehran (CNN)
Iranian army troops wearing ghillie camouflage suits in a parade in Tehran (CNN)

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) has been taking actions in the Strait of Hormuz described as “provocative” towards commercial ships under US protection.

In Friday’s incident, four Iranian patrol ships surrounded the Maersk Kensington, a US-flagged cargo vessel, in the Strait of Hormuz. The patrol ships harassed the Kensington for a while, and then backed off.

In Tuesday’s incident, IRGCN patrol boats fired shots at a commercial cargo vessel passing through the Strait of Hormuz, and then forcibly boarded the ship and directed it to an Iranian port. The vessel was the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged ship.

In my World View article yesterday on the US defense agreement with Japan, I provided a list of countries with which the US has a mutual defense treaty: Japan, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, the Philippines, the ANZUS agreement with Australia and New Zealand, a special treaty with Iceland, and the NATO agreement with all of Europe.

Well, today I have to add one more to the list: The Marshall Islands. According to the State Department:

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a sovereign nation. While the government is free to conduct its own foreign relations, it does so under the terms of the Compact. The United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands, and the Government of the Marshall Islands is obligated to refrain from taking actions that would be incompatible with these security and defense responsibilities. The United States and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations. Marshallese citizens may work and study in the United States without a visa, and they join the U.S. military at a higher rate than any U.S. state.

The Marshall Islands is group of hundreds of islands northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. It hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.

The US Navy is monitoring the situation, but currently plans no further action. The U.S. believes that Iranians will “send the ship on its way,” according to an official.

It is not known why Iran seized the Tigris, though press reports give a partial explanation that “the ship owner had some long-standing overdue payments that it had to settle” with an Iranian company.

These incidents come at a time when there are concerns about a possible naval confrontation in the Gulf of Aden between US ships and Iranian warships attempting to supply weapons to Houthis in Yemen.

They also come at a time when the US and the West are close to completing a nuclear agreement with Iran that would result in the lifting of all sanctions, possibly immediately. The US administration has made one concession after another to Iran so that the agreement will be consummated, and it may be that the administration is playing down the recent naval incidents in order to avoid provoking a crisis that might scuttle the nuclear deal. US State Dept. and CNN and Fars (Tehran) and Defense One

Greece’s PM Tsipras desperately seeks financial crisis solution

Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras telephoned Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday evening, and reports indicate that Tsipras begged for mercy. Without an additional bailout loan, Greece will go bankrupt in about a month. It is believed that going bankrupt will force Greece to leave the eurozone and return to the drachma currency.

On Monday, Tsipras fired his colorful finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who attended Friday’s Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers, and was accused of being a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur.

No solution exists for Greece’s financial crisis, and yet a way has always been found for the Greeks and the Europeans to postpone the final reckoning, “kicking the can down the road.” The Europeans are now desperately looking for one more postponement, but positions have become so hardened that even a temporary solution may be impossible.

Tsipras’s far-left Syriza party won January’s election by promising that he would not allow any more austerity measures to be imposed on Greece. The Europeans have said that Greece will not get any more bailout money without committing to a list of reforms that address various economic issues, including Greece’s bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies.

Putting such a list in writing would violate Tsipras’s campaign promises. Not putting it in writing violates Tsipras’s promises to the Europeans.

On Tuesday, Tsipras tried a different approach: if the Europeans insisted on further austerity measures, then he would call a referendum to see if the Greek people accept the austerity measures. This appears to be a final desperate gasp, since there is not enough time for a national referendum, and even if one was held, it would not resolve the impasse with Europe.

So even a temporary kick-the-can solution would require a major climbdown by one side or the other, and it wouldn’t buy much time anyway. Reuters and Kathimerini and Deutsche Welle

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iran, Strait of Hormuz, Maersk Kensington, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy, IRGCN, Maersk Tigris, Marshall Islands, Syriza, Greece, Alexis Tsipras, Yanis Varoufakis, Germany, Angela Merkel
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