Washington has been urged to rally behind its allies in the Middle East to stand up to Iran or else things could “get out of hand” after it illegally seized a US-bound oil tanker, Express.co.uk has been told.
The US Navy called for Iran to immediately release an oil tanker Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps illegally seized in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.
To stop fighting breaking out if Iran decides to make a similar move again, the US needs to garner support from its partners in the heated region and issue a “clear” warning to the Islamic Republic.
At least that is according to Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran Program and author of The Battle of the Ayatollahs in Iran: The United States, Foreign Policy, and Political Rivalry since 1979.
He told Express.co.uk: “Neither side wants a military conflict…but you can never discount the possibility that things get out of hand. There have been many cases, particularly by Iran’s navy, that the US has described as reckless.
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“If this trend intensifies in the sense of more risk-taking by Iranian naval forces as a way of flexing muscle, then you cannot dismiss the risk of some kind of event turning into kinetic action – basically shooting at each other – and that is a danger.
“If you raise the costs, Iran would have to rethink its approach. If you don’t, it would be under the impression that it can get away with this. To prevent that, you need to make that much clearer.”
But he stressed the US cannot stave off a deepening escalation without the backing of its partners in and around the Persian Gulf.
Vatanka said: “Diplomatically very loud and clear say [the US and its regional partners] need to say that this sort of thing undermines what we are trying to do with Iran in terms of de-escalation.
“Iran can ignore the US, they have sanctioned the hell out of them…but they [the US] do have a process of trying to de-escalate the Arab neighbours. The US needs to speak in the same voice as these Arab states saying ‘for the sake of regional stability, freedom of trade, navigation and all the rest of it, we cannot have a literal state [Iran] acting on its own’.”
“This incident needs to be used to push back against Iran’s feeling that, in order to retaliate, it can take action that is a breach of norms and laws governing things like navigation at sea. The region has to speak with the US.
“The Gulf Arab states are engaging with Iran [economically] and that is important to Terhan, they need to engage with them to say don’t do this again.”
The Advantage Sweet oil tanker was travelling from Kuwait and was en route to its listed destination of Houston, Texas when it was reportedly seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Islamic Republic’s military.
The US 5th Fleet said in a statement: “Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability.
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy.”
It added that Iran has illegally seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East over the last year.
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