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Ship seizures must end

Aug 08,2019 - Last updated at Aug 08,2019

Iranian gun boats seized, yet again, a third oil tanker on suspicion of carrying "smuggled oil"!

The vessel in question turned out to be from Iraq, a country on very friendly terms with Tehran. The immediate question is why Iran would want to lock horns with Iraq at a time when it is supposed to be enjoying the best relations with it.

Iran says that the seizure of the Iraqi ship came upon the request of its judiciary.

The follow-up question is what gave Iran the authority to determine what constitutes smuggled cargo and what does not, and worse still, the mandate to carry out its seizure and the confiscation of that cargo?

Is Iran now policing shipments of oil or other types of cargo across the Strait of Hormuz? The ship in question was carrying some 700,000 liters of diesel, presumably from Iraq to another Arab destination. Maybe Iranian officials have decided that if their own oil shipments can be interrupted anywhere in the world by orders of US President Donald Trump, so should all other oil shipments from Arab ports.

Iran may also be seeking to increase tensions in the Gulf waters, especially across the Strait of Hormuz and the Oman Gulf since its previous seizures of oil tankers did not seem to do the job.

Whatever the underlying reason for Iran’s third seizure of oil tankers, Iranian officials must think again about their actions. If Iran seeks to sway Iraq closer to its policies, seizure of Iraqi oil tankers is not the way. There are better ways of forging friendly relations with neighbouring Arab countries, and confiscation of their exports across the Strait of Hormuz is not one of them.

In any case, this spate of ship seizures must end. Surely there are rules governing free navigation of vessels laden with innocent cargo. Iran must learn to play by these rules if it seeks better relations with its neighbours. The seizure of the Iraqi ship and the confiscation of its cargo on trumped-up charges is certainly the wrong way.

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