Despite clear indications that the Iranian regime intended to target British shipping in the region in retaliation for Gibraltar’s detention of an Iranian tanker accused of transporting crude oil to Syria in defiance of international sanctions, Mrs May is said to have declined “repeated overtures” to establish a British-American security operation, because “it would look like the UK backed Washington’s wider hardline stance on Iran”.
While the Trump administration has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on the theocratic regime, the United Kingdom has followed along with the EU in trying to keep it on life support — despite the Iranians’ more or less naked belligerence towards them.
“May and [Foreign Secretary Jeremy] Hunt declined an offer the America last week [sic] to join them in a maritime coalition for security in the [Strait of Hormuz]… they wanted to build an international effort,” said a Whitehall source quoted by Sun political editor Harry Cole.
“It’s a major fuck up when it was blindingly obvious we were vulnerable. Weak politics. In light of the threat it was an act of folly, just pathetic,” they added. A Whitehall source said: ‘May and Hunt declined an offer the America last week to join them in a maritime coalition for security in the strait...they wanted to build an international effort’...
“I think there are genuine questions to be raised right now about the British Government’s behaviour, [and] I say this as a supporter of the Government,” commented Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader and Work and Pensions Secretary who now chairs Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, after Mrs May’s decision to rely on the much-diminished Royal Navy until an alternative “internationalised” operation could be put in place resulted in the Iranians capturing a tanker in Omani waters.
Contradicting official claims a concrete offer of U.S. help had not been made, the senior Tory insisted that “Britain was offered whatever assistance is necessary to protect British ships and commanders out there were willing to help.”
“The Government failed to take them up on the offer and the reason was that we didn’t want to upset the Iranians,” he claimed. “They made a major miscalculation. It was a big misjudgement and it goes all the way to the top.”
U.S. President Donald J. Trump backed Britain after Iran seized a British tanker at sea, saying the Islamic Republic is in "big trouble". Despite the British government’s apparently misguided coldness towards the U.S. before losing the tanker, President Trump maintained his willingness to help in the incident’s immediate aftermath, stressing the importance of the British-American alliance and warning that Iran was in “big trouble”.
The British government has maintained a weak posture, however, failing to impose sanctions and ruling out a military solution to the crisis — partly because of the massive naval cuts Mrs May and predecessor David Cameron have presided over, which have left the Royal Navy “too small to manage our interests across the globe”, according to Defence minister Tobias Ellwood.
Indeed, Boris Johnson’s rival to succeed Mrs May as Tory leader, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, is said to have asked the U.S. government not to make aggressive statements about the tanker incident.
Iran seized two British tankers in the Strait of Hormuz within hours of each other on Friday in an escalation against the US and UK, and then released one of the tankers. The UK’s foreign minister said none of the crew members in Iranian custody were British citizens as the UK government convened an emergency meeting to swiftly respond.
On Friday, Iran’s PressTV reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized control of the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero. Unconfirmed reports then emerged that a second ship, the British-owned tanker Mesdar, had also been taken by force. A maritime tracker showed the Saudi Arabia-bound Mesdar sharply veer off course toward Iran.
“Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management can confirm that at approximately 1600 BST on 19th July UK registered vessel Stena Impero (built 2018, 49,683 DWT) was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters,” the release said. “We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.”
The company said there were 23 crew members aboard the Stena Impero. None of the sailors aboard either ship are British citizens, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement. Erik Hanell, CEO of Stena Bulk, said the 23 crew members were of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality.
“There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus,” Hanell said. “We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers’ families.”
The second ship, the British-owned oil tanker Mesdar, was bound for Saudi Arabia on Friday when it sharply veered off course toward Iran, according to the ship-tracking website. The ship’s owners, Norbulk Shipping UK, which is based in Glasgow, Scotland, confirmed the tanker had been boarded as it was directed towards Iran and then was released.
“Communication has been re-established with the vessel, Norbulk said in a statement, and “armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage. All crew are safe and well.” Iran has not claimed responsibility for detaining the Mesdar, which appeared to resume its course to Saudi Arabia after coming near Iranian territorial waters.
The British tankers are not the only foreign vessels seized by Iran in the past week; on Thursday, the country released footage of an IRGC boat crew circling the United Arab Emirates-owned, Panamanian-flagged Riah tanker, which has been missing since Sunday. British Royal Marines seized an Iranian vessel, which the UK said was smuggling fuel to Syria. Iran denies that the vessel was carrying fuel to Syria and has repeatedly demanded its release.
The US-Iran standoff has targeted tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, through which over $US1 billion of crude oil is shipped daily. Oil prices have remained largely stable over the past month and are about $US55 for a barrel, but they began rising as news spread of Iran’s seizure.
Commenting on broader tensions in the region, US President Donald Trump said on Friday that US ships are “the most deadly ships ever conceived, and we hope for [Iran’s] sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do they’re going to pay a price like nobody’s ever paid a price.”
The U.S. has requested naval cooperation from Germany in the Strait of Hormuz as tensions with Iran escalate, but the political leaders of the European nation have refused to assist their NATO allies.
The German Federal Foreign Office said that Washington has approached them to contribute to a new surveillance mission in the Persian Gulf but had rejected the appeal saying there was no prospect of a contribution, German tabloid Bild reports.
Germany’s allies, including the U.S. and the UK, have been attacked in the Persian Gulf by Iran in recent months. and under the doctrine of collective defence guaranteed by the NATO alliance, Germany is duty-bound to come to the aid of its allies if asked. Yet senior members of Angela Merkel’s left-centrist coalition government have made clear working with the U.S. is out of the question.
Social Democrat (SPD) foreign policy spokesman Nils Schmid told German newspaper Tagesspiegel that “participation is out of the question,” adding: “Germany will not participate in a U.S. mission. “We could suddenly find ourselves on the side of the Americans in a war with Iran. European nations should be very careful to keep a distance from the military mission of the Americans.”
Another foreign office source told the tabloid: “Participation in the American strategy of maximum pressure is out of the question for us.” He added the German government was looking instead to use diplomatic means to “de-escalate tensions”. Germany, along with the European Union, has been a keen supporter of the failed Iran nuclear deal, which could be the diplomatic measures to which the spokesman was referring.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy to Germany confirmed: “We have formally asked Germany to work with France and Britain to help secure the Strait of Hormuz and fight Iranian aggression.”
Germany’s position contrasts strongly with that of South Korea, which is not a member of the NATO alliance, but which nonetheless is considering contributing to the security of the Persian Gulf, Breitbart London reported.
Former Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Secretary of State for Defence Christian Schmidt disagreed on the government’s stance, however. He said of the decision: “Pure observation is not enough; we must also be able to actively protect our merchant ships.” He added that the safe passage of vessels was “existential” for Germany.
Germany, like all developed nations, relies on the free flow of oil tankers that pass through the Strait of Hormuz from the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world. Britain’s Royal Navy describes the bottleneck as one of the most vital waterways in the world for trade, and that one-third of all the world’s oil flows through it in tankers every day.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell has criticised Germany’s lack of participation in foreign NATO operations in the past, telling Breitbart London last year: “It is woeful; Germany is the largest economy in Europe. They made a commitment to NATO, and they should be serious about that commitment; it is a multilateral institution that guarantees the allies, guaranteeing freedom.”
Grenell also noted Germany’s lack of military readiness, stating: “German military officials know that the readiness issue is a serious problem, there are no working submarines, for example; they don’t have a military that is currently ready.”
The German military has seen a number of readiness issues going back years, including an incident in 2014 in which the army was forced to use broom handles in place of firearms during a joint NATO exercise.
Germany, which has persistently failed to contribute its agreed share of the military budgets agreed by the NATO mutual defence organisation, has neglected its own military to such a point where they now lack basic equipment – such as guns.
This discrepancy was farcically illustrated at a NATO joint exercise last year, which was intended to train and test the supposedly elite rapid reaction force, a collection of NATO units ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice to respond to crises.
Despite the exercise having been planned years in advance, the Germany contingent found they didn’t have enough machine guns, and resorted to using black-painted broom handles instead. It is now known the battalion of Panzer Grenadiers were lacking nearly one third of their machine guns, almost half of their side-arms, and almost all of their night-vision goggles.
The prospect of soldiers using broom-handles instead of issued equipment is highly redolent of the initial poor state of materiel experienced by the British Local Defence Volunteers, later renamed the Home Guard and affectionately known as ‘Dads Army’, who in the early days of the Second World War conducted rifle and bayonet drill with wooden sticks due to a lack of weapons.
German authorities insisted mounting the broom handles on their armoured personal carriers was merely a matter of subterfuge, as the vehicles had the interior space taken up by radios and command equipment instead – but this appears rather to be the latest in a long line of German military mishaps caused by a chronic lack of money.
Significant underinvestment in military equipment, poor maintenance, and a lack of spare parts have led to a number of embarrassing failures for the German military in the past few months. After deciding to donate millions of euros worth of military equipment of Kurdish fighters, the German government found itself unable to deliver it, because every military transport plane they tried to ship it with broke down on the runway.
|Merkel Army: German tanks with no guns.|