By Arresting Foreigners and Detaining Ships, Iran Reverts to Its Favorite Method of Diplomacy

July 23 2019

On Friday, Iranian naval vessels seized an oil tanker flying the British flag, along with its crew. Taking foreigners hostage has long been a preferred tactic of the Islamic Republic, as Bobby Ghosh writes:

When Iranian authorities imprison American or European citizens, they’re saying: give us what we want, or we’ll do to your people what we do to ours. Iran sent that message to France and Britain [last] week. On Tuesday, a regime spokesman confirmed the arrest of Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian anthropologist. The announcement coincided with the news that prison authorities in Tehran have moved a British-Iranian hostage, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, to a psychiatric ward.

The timing of the announcements in Tehran leave little doubt about their true purpose. The Islamic Republic has a long history of using—and celebrating the use of—hostages as leverage, a commodity it desperately needs right now. The regime has been trying to ward off pressure from European governments to honor the uranium-enrichment limits agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal. It has, in turn, been pressing the Europeans to deliver the economic benefits promised in the deal.

The timing of Adelkhah’s arrest is interesting, [as the] French president Emmanuel Macron has recently taken the lead in European diplomacy with Iran, sending a top adviser to Tehran only last week, to persuade the regime to return to the agreed enrichment limits. Macron now has his answer; . . . for anyone familiar with the parlance of Iranian diplomacy, the message is clear enough.

With Zaghari-Ratcliffe, there may be yet another consideration. Her transfer to the psychiatric ward comes just after British marines seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar; it was apparently carrying oil to Syria. Iranian officials have been demanding the ship be released, calling the seizure “piracy, pure and simple.” It is entirely in character for the regime to lash out brazenly when caught in wrongdoing.

Seizing a British ship was just the next step.

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Emmanuel Macron, France, Iran, United Kingdom

Only a Clear Message to Iran Can Restore Israel’s Deterrence

Aug. 19 2019

Currently the greatest threat facing the Jewish state is an attack on three fronts, in which Hizballah and other Iranian forces launch tens of thousands of missiles simultaneously from both Lebanon and Syria, while Hamas—now also taking orders from Tehran—does the same from Gaza. Such a barrage would likely overwhelm Israel’s storied missile-defense systems, severely disrupt civilian life and possible result in high casualties, and gravely interfere with the IDF’s ability to counterattack. Noting that the Islamic Republic could unleash this mayhem at the time of its choosing, Benny Morris suggests a straightforward preventative measure. (Free registration required.)

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Syria