Did Britain Just Prove Iran is a Paper Tiger?
While we can never be sure what is said in Iranian national security meetings, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Iranian threats in the Gulf in recent weeks and months have come about because Iran does not fear President Trump.
This is contrary to most criticism of the President’s Iran policy. Democrats and their allies in the media like to paint Trump as a bumbling buffoon who, along with his warmongering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have provoked the current crisis by withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran.
Tehran had lashed out against six tankers in the span of a month, culminating in the iconic images of fire and smoke belching out the starboard side of one of its victims and CENTCOM’s video that showed Iranian personnel removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the ship’s hulls in an apparent move to cover their tracks. Sensing internal division in the United States and an unwillingness from Trump to do anything about the minings, Iran shot down an American drone and had a Navy surveillance plane in its crosshairs. Trump thought about a tit for tat response, but ultimately backed down. In other words, Trump blinked.
Tensions left the news cycle for a while until news that British Royal Marines seized an Iranian super tanker bound for Syria in the Strait of Gibraltar. The move was down in order to enforce European Union sanctions on Syria, but Tehran was outraged, re-igniting tensions. Tehran declared that a British tanker would be seized in response. Iran was talking tough, it seemed too tough. Would the regime be so stupid as to seize a commercial vessel from one of the countries that has stayed in the nuclear deal? Creating an international incident with London at a time where Iran has now exceeded the limits on its nuclear program under the deal would only seem to ease the divide between the United States and Europe.
Then Iran did it. They seized a British tanker or at least they tried to. On Wednesday, five boats of the pride of the Iranian Revolution, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ordered the British Heritage to change course and stop in Iranian waters. However, shadowing the vessel was the Royal Navy frigate Montrose. The Montrose proceeded to focus its deck guns on the Iranians and warned them to back off, which they did.
The Iranians threatened a British tanker and the British told them to back off and the Iranians then scurried back under a rock. This was the first time since the mining of the tankers that the Iranians came face to face with military force. By simply saying “no” the British may have just proved Iranian’s threats, presented with real hard power, to be all talk and no walk and may have just ended the crisis.