Escalation, Counter-Escalation, and Repeat
The editor-in-chief of the hardline Iranian newspaper, Kayhan, argues that Iran can restrict oil tankers’ access to the Strait of Hormuz based on a “’right of retaliation’” under the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea after the implementation of an EU oil embargo. The paper’s editor, who is appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, wrote that Iran “‘can prevent the passage of oil tankers or ships with military or commercial loads that aren’t considered harmless for its security, order and peace’” (Bloomberg 6/24).
In response to concerns that Iran might block Hormuz, four U.S. minesweepers have arrived in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters to ensure the “‘continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in international waterways,’” said the U.S. Navy (Reuters 6/25).
In order to avoid continued escalation, analysts are calling for more “creative” diplomacy, and warning that without a diplomatic solution, Iran will escalate tensions in response to the U.S. and E.U oil sanctions. (AFP 6/24).
MEK: US “has no choice but to delist” group from terror list
Members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a designated terrorist organization that is also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), rallied at an event in Paris this weekend (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 6/25). Former Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich attended and spoke in support of the group, calling for regime change in Iran (MEK Press Release 6/25).
The group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, also said, “‘Following the June 1 ruling … the State Department has no choice but to delist the PMOI, unless it wants to again trample upon justice and law to satisfy the Mullahs’” (Reuters 6/23).
Russians Discourage “Bellicose Actions”
Russian foreign prime minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said the P5+1 talk in Moscow with Iran were “quite useful,” but that, “In order to settle the issue, it’s necessary to refrain from constant threats of using force, abandon scenarios aimed against Iran, and stop dismissing the talks as failure’” (The Washington Post 6/22). He warned against taking “‘some kind of bellicose actions’” if “‘there is no final agreement by the end of July or August- and there simply can’t be any in such a (short) period’” (The Washington Post 6/22).
NITC Oil Tankers Change Names, Flags
The National Iranian Tanker Company has reportedly anglicized the names of 12 of its 15 vessels ahead of a July 1st EU embargo on Iranian oil (The Daily Star 6/25). On at least 11 of the NITC’s 39 oil tankers, the flag of Tuvalu, a pacific atoll, now waves (The Daily Star 6/25). Reportedly, many of the ships had previously carried Maltese or Cypriot flags, but political pressure inside the EU forced the Iranian vessels to change flags (The Daily Star 6/25).
Iran Accuses China of Noncompliance
Iranian news sources report Iran’s oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, has issued an ultimatum to China National Petroleum Corp., which won a $5 billion contract three years ago to develop the South Pars gas field (Bloomberg 6/25). Qasemi cited the Chinese corporation’s “frequent delays” (Bloomberg 6/25).
Notable Opinion: “What to Make of Moscow?”
Faridah Farhi, professor at University of Hawaii at Mānoa, discusses the varied takes on the success of talks in Moscow and why continued talks could bring about a resolution:
Back to top
The reality is that Iran is faced with the difficult choice of continuing the talks in the hope that there will be more flexibility in allowing it to declare some sort of victory later, even while the softening of oil prices reduces its leverage. Undoubtedly, domestic pressure to suspend talks will mount if it becomes evident that a shift in the American position on enrichment or sanctions is unlikely to materialize. Iran will also attempt to increase its leverage by further advancing its nuclear program.
But at this point, a wait-and-see attitude is likely to prevail at least until after the expert-level meeting. In the words of an editorial in Jam-e Jam daily, this meeting will give the Iranians “a basis for a correct judgment” regarding what happened in Moscow.