World View: US Navy Will Escort US-Flagged Ships Through Strait of Hormuz


This morning’s key headlines from

  • Pakistan jails ten militants for Malala Yousafzai attack, but not prime suspect
  • US Navy will escort US-flagged ships through Strait of Hormuz
  • Iran’s ship seizure may be a message to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan jails ten militants for Malala Yousafzai attack, but not prime suspect

Malala Yousafzai in Oslo in December 2014 (Reuters)
Malala Yousafzai in Oslo in December 2014 (Reuters)

A Pakistan court has jailed 10 Taliban militants for life for involvement in the attack on Malala Yousafzai. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot by Pakistan’s Taliban that raised international outrage. It is thought that the motive for the attack was Yousafzai’s activism for girls’ education in opposition to the views of the Taliban.

After the attack, Yousafzai was flown to the UK for treatment, where she fully recovered. She then won the Nobel Peace Prize and became an international spokesman for girls’ education.

Pakistan was under international pressure to identify Yousafzai’s attackers and bring them to justice. Thursday’s announcement was apparently intended to satisfy those concerns.

However, instead of satisfying concerns, the announcement raised a number of new questions. The announcement did not say when and where the trial was held, when and where the ten men had been arrested, or how they were linked to the attack on Yousafzai. None of the ten men sentenced to jail participated in the actual shooting, but were allegedly linked in some way to plotting the shooting. The ten men did not include the principal suspects for the crime, nor the prime suspect Ataullah Khan, a 23-year-old militant, who is now suspected of hiding out in Afghanistan.

Many Pakistanis have mixed emotions about Yousafzai, just as they have mixed emotions about the Taliban. According to one analyst, “It may sound completely shocking, but many people are convinced that Malala is some kind of Western agent who was planted to disgrace Pakistan.” The result is that many people see Thursday’s convictions as a token verdict, a way for the government to say to its international audience that it is taking the terrorism problem seriously, but without taking an action strong enough to upset the Pakistani people. CBS News and BBC and Public Radio International

US Navy will escort US-flagged ships through Strait of Hormuz

In a significant change in the US military posture in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy warships will now accompany US-flagged commercial vessels that pass through the Strait of Hormuz. The follows two incidents in the last week, one on Friday where four Iranian patrol ships harassed a US-flagged cargo vessel, and one on Tuesday where Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) boarded the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged ship and forced it into an Iranian port.

Iran’s media have made unsubstantiated claims that the Maersk Tigris is a US-owned ship. In fact, it is actually owned and managed by Hamburg-based Rickmers Ship Management. However, since the ship sails under a Marshall Islands flag, it may be necessary for the US to defend the ship from Iran, under a 1983 defense treaty with the Marshall Islands. Iran is now claiming that the Maersk Tigris will be released when Iran receives restitution for some cargo that was lost in 2005.

According to US officials, the fear is that allowing Iran to continue to harass and board ships could lead to a major confrontation, and the hope is that by accompanying commercial ships, Iran will back down rather than confront.

At any rate, it seems that the new policy would not have made any difference to the Maersk Tigris, since it is not a US-flagged ship. CNN and Reuters

Iran’s ship seizure may be a message to Saudi Arabia

The alleged commercial dispute that gave rise to Iran’s seizure of the Maersk Tigris was ten years old, giving rise to the question of why Iran chose this particular time for the seizure. In fact, according to an analysis, it may be that this time was chosen as a signal to Saudi Arabia to the West to expect further maritime confrontations in the future.

One of the justifications that the US administration has been giving for making concession after concession after concession to Iran in the nuclear talks is the hope that Iran will completely change personality once the agreement is signed and the sanctions are lifted. In this fantasy, Iran starts cooperating with the West in Syria and helps bring the Houthis to heel in Yemen.

According to the analysis, the seizure of the Tigris is one of a series of signals that the opposite will happen: That once the agreement is signed, and the sanctions are lifted, Iran will be emboldened to adopt a more aggressive regional posture in the coming years — perhaps even rolling back to the pre-1996 era, when Iran and its proxies operated more actively against US interests in the Middle East, culminating in the Khobar Towers bombing against American troops in Saudi Arabia.

The US and Saudi Arabia have been sending their own messages to Iran, by setting up an air and sea blockade around Yemen to prevent Iran from delivering arms and supplies to the Houthis in Yemen. Just last week, a convoy of cargo ships from Iran had attempted to run the blockade, but was forced back by US naval ships. There was also an Iranian attempt to land a supply plane in the airport in Yemen’s capital city Sanaa, and that attempt was also repelled. On that very same day, Iran boarded and seized the Maersk Tigris in the Strait of Hormuz.

With Iran provoking naval and aerial confrontations in the Persian Gulf and over and around Yemen, the possibility of an incident that spirals into a larger military confrontation grows every day. Farzin Nadimi, The Washington Institute For Near East Policy

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, Ataullah Khan, Iran, Strait of Hormuz, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy, IRGCN, Maersk Tigris, Marshall Islands, Rickmers Ship Management, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Khobar Towers
Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail