Tehran Times – When Britain impounded the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 on July 4, John Bolton, Donald Trump’s ultra-hawkish national security adviser, tweeted: “Excellent news”.
On the same day, acting Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell said the seizure had followed “a demand from the United States to the UK.” On July 19, Reuters reported, “Several diplomatic sources said the United States asked the UK to seize the vessel.”
However, on Thursday, August 15, when the Supreme Court in Gibraltar decided to release the ship the United States unsuccessfully tried to prevent the release. In fact, the U.S. was unhappy that authorities in London took steps to defuse tensions with Tehran.
The Gibraltar government revealed on Thursday morning that the United States had applied to seize the vessel, the New York Times reported.
Filled with the anger that its illegal demands had gone unanswered by the Supreme Court, the United States childishly threatened a visa ban on the crew of the supertanker.
All these things suggest that Bolton lighted the fuse of tanker standoff between Iran and Britain. In fact, Britain was deceived and fell victim to the Trump administration’s extra-territorial sanctions. The move promoted Iran to retaliate in kind and capture a British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero near the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.
Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, said the U.S. request on the Grace 1 was based on its own imposed sanctions on Iran, and not the EU’s sanctions on oil exports to Syria.
The U.S. order to Britain to seize the oil tanker was part of a great game to strangulate the Iranian economy and deprive the country from its sovereign rights for international trade.
The evidence reveals that Bolton was actively involved in targeting the ship from the time it began its journey in May as part of the broader Trump administration campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran.
According to the American Conservative, detailed evidence of Bolton’s deep involvement in the British seizure of the tanker surfaced in reporting on the withdrawal of Panamanian flag status for the Grace 1.
The pretext for detaining the vessel was that it was delivering oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. But the UK had no legal right to enforce those sanctions against the ship because EU sanctions on Syria does not apply to non-EU members. Iran had rejected the claim that the ship was destined for Syria, saying such a huge tanker cannot anchor in Syrian ports. However, it refused to reveal where the vessel was headed because of the illegal sanctions on Iran by the Trump administration.
Summarily speaking, the seizure was a blatant violation of the clearly defined global rules that govern the passage of merchant ships through international straits.
Among other his anti-Iran missions, Bolton visited London on Monday to prevent the release of the tanker. Though no details were released on the talks, the office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Iran was discussed during Johnson’s meeting with Bolton.
Now the ship is freed. However, Bolton is disappointed and the Trump administration has become more isolated and humiliated. The release of the ship will be remembered as a suicide for Bolton and his master’s illegal moves against Iran.