In the past two weeks, the Islamic Republic has thrice attacked its enemies at sea, posing a danger to global commerce. Farzin Nadimi explains:
On August 4, personnel from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) boarded the Emirati bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess in international waters near Fujairah and tried to divert it into Iranian waters. The crew managed to foil their plan by disabling the ship, and the boarding party left when a U.S. Navy destroyer approached.
The incident came just five days after a suspected Iranian suicide drone crashed into the Israeli-operated oil tanker Mercer Street near the Omani port of Duqm. Following an unsuccessful attack on July 29, a drone ripped through the ship’s accommodation area on July 30, killing the Romanian captain and a British security guard. Although maritime confrontations involving Iran, Israel, and the Gulf states have been occurring for years, the nature of the latest incidents highlights the urgent need for collective international action.
In the 1980s, Nadimi notes, Tehran similarly threatened international commerce, attacking tankers belonging to nations that had provided support for Baghdad in the ongoing Iran-Iraq War. Countries that have an interest in protecting the freedom of navigation on the high seas have a lesson to learn from those days:
[Then], the initial U.S., French, and British response—expanding their naval presence in the Gulf region—failed to deter Tehran from targeting ships of all flags. Only after the United States increased its show of military resolve and took bold initiative in using special-warfare tactics did Iran back down.
Indeed, international naval forces already exist that can be used to get the ayatollahs to stand down.