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July 8, 2015 / 21 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Strait of Hormuz’

Gulf Arab Leaders to Confront Obama on Iran

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama just can’t catch a break.

First he is questioned about Iranian aggression by Israel or members of the U.S. Congress, and now he’s about to be confronted by Arab leaders at a summit.

And that comes after some fast footwork to bring Saudi Arabia back into the loop altogether. Over the weekend King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud decided to excuse himself from Thursday’s upcoming summit, throwing the White House into ‘scramble’ mode.

The king was clearly sending a strong message to Washington: “Stop dithering and making excuses; let’s see some action on Iranian violations and on ending the nightmare in Syria.”

Saudi Arabia itself has led the way in its own mini-war against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Its disregard for “collateral” casualties and damage in favor of simply “getting the job done” is a typically Middle Eastern way of doing things but in fact also makes it clear that players in the region expect no less from Obama.

Leaders of Persian Gulf nations are arriving at Camp David to meet Thursday with the U.S. president, according to the Saudi state-run SPA news agency.

Discussion at the summit will focus on Iran’s “aggressive” moves in the region, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday.

“We see Iranian support for terrorist organizations and facilitating the work of terrorist organizations, so the challenge will be in how to coordinate US-Gulf efforts in order to collectively face these aggressive moves on the part of Iran,” al-Jubeir told the news agency.

Several weeks ago, Iran captured a cargo ship sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands and seized its crew of 34 sailors. The ship, its cargo and crew was stopped as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and boarded by members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its captain was forced to navigate the vessel into a southern Iranian port city, where it has remained since.

The United States is obligated under a mutual defense treaty to protect vessels and personnel operating under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

For a number of days after the capture, U.S. warships escorted American and British-flagged vessels traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. The escort, however, has since been discontinued, according to media reports.

At least four U.S. citizens still remain captive in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

US Navy Begins Escorting UK Ships in Strait of Hormuz

Monday, May 4th, 2015

The United States has added vessels from Britain to the list of ships to be given protection in the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. Navy warships have already begun to provide an escort to UK-flagged vessels as they sail through the Strait, said Army Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesperson.

Warren told reporters at a briefing on Monday the Navy has escorted one British ship through the strait so far.

The decision followed a discussion between London and Washington over the security status in the Persian Gulf.

U.S. vessels have been under escort protection of the Navy since April 28, 2015, when Iran seized the M/V Maersk Tigris. The Maersk, a Danish ship, was flagged under the Marshall Islands at the time it was captured.

The United States is obligated to defend vessels flagged under the Marshall Islands according to a mutual defense treaty between the two countries. The 34 sailors who were aboard the captured vessel were last heard from about 24 hours after the seizure, and said they were in good condition but were being confined to quarters. They have not been heard from since, nor has there been any independent confirmation of their whereabouts or condition following that contact.

US Navy Escorting US-Flagged Vessels in Strait of Hormuz

Friday, May 1st, 2015

At least for now, U.S. Navy ships deployed in the region are escorting commercial vessels sailing under the flag of the United States of America through the Strait of Hormuz.

The decision was made by the Defense Department, military officials said Thursday. It followed Iran’s seizure Tuesday of a Danish vessel sailing flagged under the Marshall Islands. Such vessels are protected by the United States by treaty.

“Out of an abundance of caution, because of the unpredictability of our Iranian friends, we’re now positioned so that, should the Iranians decide that they’re going to be stupid, we’re ready to respond,” a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal.

Even as the U.S. escalates its defensive posture in protecting vessels from Iranian piracy in the Strait of Hormuz, Vice President Joe Biden praised efforts to sign a deal with Tehran over its nuclear technology program.

Biden told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday the pending deal is “a historic opportunity to forge an enduring peaceful solution… We put together not only the toughest sanctions regime in history but one of the most broad-based,” the vice president maintained.

Biden also claimed the path to plutonium enrichment would be closed “forever” under the deal being negotiated. At present, he contended, Iran is already capable of producing eight atomic weapons. The agreement under discussion would “radically” alter the time line on Iran’s ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability, Biden said.

However, he added, the U.S. was not yet ruling out a military option. President Barack Obama might still walk away from the table, he said.

Iran is refusing to allow access to its military sites and is demanding that all sanctions be lifted immediately upon implementation of the agreement.

The United States and the five world powers negotiating the deal is reportedly insisting on sanctions relief phased in gradually over time, and a “clear” snap-back mechanism to be activated at the United Nations Security Council if Tehran violates the deal.

Final signatures are expected to be on the document by the end of June, if at all.

Contact Made with Crew of Ship Seized by Iran

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Brief contact has been made with the 24-man crew on the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris ship seized by Iran this week, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The ship was charted by Rickmers Shipmanagement, based in Singapore, whose spokesman Cor Radings said:

They’re all in relatively good condition, but it’s not a good situation and is still of concern to us,

He added that Iranian guards are keeping the crew in their rooms and eating area. All of the crew members are from Asia and Eastern Europe.

The USS Navy has sent the U.S. Farragut destroyer and three other smaller ships to the Strait of Hormuz (Persian Gulf) in response to Iran’s seizure of the vessel on Tuesday.

Rickmers maintains that the Maersk ship was in international waters when Iranian Revolutionary Navy Guards shot at it and then forced it to the area of the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

 

Iran Tests US Resolve, Forces Maersk Vessel to Coastal Waters

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Iran appears to be testing the resolve of the United States and President Barack Obama in its latest adventure with a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. forces operating in the region heard and responded to the distress call sent by the M/S Maersk Tigris, sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, during a confrontation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Marshall Islands are under a defense treaty with the United States; the U.S. is obligated to come to the defense of that nation should it be attacked.

The Iranian forces contacted the master of the cargo ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, ordering him to divert to Iranian waters. When he refused, the Iranian vessel fired warning shots across the bow of the Danish ship. IRGC forces then boarded the ship and guided it towards southern Iran.

By the time the U.S.S. Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer reached the location – more than 60 miles away at the start of the distress call – the Maersk was heading to Iran.

Apparently under Admiralty law, a commercial firm is allowed to go to court and obtain a court order to seize a ship to satisfy a debt, according to retired U.S. Navy captain and Fox News military analyst Chuck Nash.

Nash told Fox News journalist Gretchen Carlson on Wednesday that an Iranian company did just that about 10 or 12 years ago, after cargo that was to be shipped with a Maersk vessel never arrived.

Last Friday, four Iranian ships also dogged the heels of a Maersk ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz. But that vessel was sailing under the flag of the United States of America, and eventually the Iranians abandoned their pursuit.

This week the targeted Maersk vessel was flagged under the Marshall Islands, which clearly emboldened its pursuers.

“The U.S. is under no obligation” to do [anything to defend the vessel] in the maritime realm, Nash explained. He pointed out the treaty with the Marshall Islands is a “clear spoken defense agreement should they be attacked” – on land.

The U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense has confirmed the above facts, saying the shipping company told U.S. Central Command that the Iran Navy “contacted the vessel and directed the Maersk Tigris’s master to divert further, into Iranian waters.” He added: “The master initially declined and one of the IRGC patrol craft fired shots across the Maersk Tigris’s bow. The master then complied and diverted under escort by the IRGC vessels.”

The Maersk issued a distress call when the shots were fired. The U.S.S. Farragut received that call and immediately launched a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to monitor the situation, and itself headed to site, he added.

The real questions now are:

  • What is the status of the MaerskTigris, forced to a southern Iranian port city by Iranian forces?
  • Where are the 34 sailors who were aboard the Maersk and what is their condition? Are they now hostages of Iran?
  • Who has the obligation to rescue the crew of the Maersk? Who will ensure their safety?
  • How will the United States consider this situation as it continues to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear development activities?

It’s important not to forget that Iran continues to hold U.S. citizens hostage, even as Secretary of State John Kerry carries on his nuclear development negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. They are:

  • Saeed Abedini, 34, of Idaho, arrested during a 2012 trip to Tehran to visit family and sentenced to eight years in prison. Married father of two;
  • Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent seized by Iranian intelligence in 2007 as he was investigating a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian free-trade zone — the longest-held hostage in Iranian custody, assuming he is still alive;
  • Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine arrested and charged with espionage in 2011 while visiting family in Tehran; and
  • Jason Rezaian, the bureau chief for The Washington Post in Tehran, arrested in July 2014 on undisclosed “security-related offenses.” In January 2015 an Iranian prosecutor revealed Rezaian would be tried in a revolutionary court by one of the country’s most notorious hanging judges.
  • It is important to remember the names and circumstances of each of the hostages and to remind each candidate who stands for office as elections approach in 2016.

US Sends Destroyer to Persian Gulf after Iran Boards Freighter

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

The U.S. Navy Farragut destroyer is speeding to the Persian Gulf Wednesday after Iran boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged freighter that the regime said had trespassed into its waters while sailing through the key oil and gas tanker route of the Straits of Hormuz, also known as the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Navy fired shots at the ship, which the Pentagon says was in international waters.

The United States also has ordered an aircraft carrier to remain on standby in another mini-crisis that Iran seems to have created to put pressure on the Obama administration during the new round of talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran on an agreement to allow Tehran to continue its nuclear development program.

The Marshall Islands, once an American territory, is independent of the United States but has a “free relationship” with Washington that includes a security pact.

A spokesman for the Maersk shipping company said that the vessel charted by Rickers Shipmanagment was in international waters and was sailing from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with cargo that could range from  “anything from food to machinery to electronics,” he said.

Rickers spokesman Cor Radings wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times he does not know of any previous incident of Iran seizing a ship in open seas. He stated, “I cannot exclude it has happened before, but would believe we have to go back” to World War II.

Last week, Iran caved into American and Western pressure and turned back one of its ships that was approaching Aden, Yemen with a cargo of what was assumed to be weapons for Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Jeff Rathke, the State Dept.’s tight-lipped spokesman, told reporters Tuesday:

It’s a key concern of the United States to ensure that sea lanes in the region remain open and safe… We remain committed to our regional partners and to maintaining security in the maritime environment.

So what is the United States going to do about it, especially since the United States has what Rathke called a “security compact” with the Marshall Islands?

“Is the U.S. prepared to use force to defend the Marshall Islands?” one reporter asked.

Rathke answered,” “Well, I think that’s premature to jump to that conclusion.”

And did Iran commit an act of piracy or aggression?

Rathke:  “I’m not going to apply an adjective to it right now. We are following the situation very carefully, but I’m not going to label it.

Well, does the United States condemn it?

Rathke:” Well, again, we’re gathering more information. I don’t have a further reaction at this point.

But what about the security compact that Rathke said “gives the U.S. authority and responsibility for security and defense matters that relate to the Marshall Islands, including matters related to vessels flying the Marshallese flag?”

Well, he says, “Certainly, that’s something we’re looking at.”

And could it be, just possibly by a stretch of the imagination, that Iran the seizure and previous threats from Iran to block the Persian Gulf are linked to the proposed nuclear negotiations?

Rathke, of course, “is not going to speculate on what their motives might be.

In case you missed it, Kerry said yesterday:

We are, in fact, closer than ever to the good, comprehensive deal that we have been seeking, and if we can get there, the entire world will be safer.

If finalized and implemented, (an agreement) will close off all of Iran’s possible pathways to the nuclear material required for a nuclear weapon and give the international community the confidence that it needs to know that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed exclusively peaceful.

And if the United States does not agree, Iran will close the Persian Gulf and raise the price of oil as part of its program to make the entire safer.

Iran Seizes Cargo Ship Under US Protection in Strait of Hormuz

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Iranian naval forces have seized a commercial cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz and are redirecting the vessel to southern Iran, FARS news service reported late Monday.

The ship, the M/V Maersk Tigris, is a Danish vessel flying under the flag of the Marshall Islands. The United States has full authority and responsibility under treaty for the security and defense of the Marshall Islands.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces intercepted the vessel as it was crossing the waterway on Tuesday morning, according to a senior U.S. military official quoted by CNN. A separate source said shots were fired at the vessel; it was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured on the ship. There are no Americans aboard.

However, the 34 sailors on the vessel are now allegedly heading for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, according to Al-Arabiya.

Both Iran and the United States have been tight-lipped about the incident thus far. The U.S. Fifth Fleet off the coast of Bahrain had no comment, Reuters reported. Iranian media refused to officially confirm the report.

Iranian officials claim the ship was “trespassing” in the Persian Gulf.

A U.S. official told Reuters there have been no indications that any American vessel is being directed by Iranian forces. The official added the U.S. is still working to clarify the situation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/iran-seizes-us-cargo-ship-in-strait-of-hormuz/2015/04/28/

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