British Royal Marines Seize Tanker Allegedly Carrying Iranian Oil to Syria
July 5, 2019 (EIRNS)—In an obvious move to provoke another Iranian crisis, British Navy Royal Marines seized a supertanker suspected of carrying Iranian oil to Syria off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. The orders to seize the vessel were made by Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of HM Government of Gibraltar, who issued a statement to the effect that he had ordered seizure of the ship and its cargo. Picardo gave as rationale, “we have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria.”
Like some modern-day pirates, a detachment of nearly 30 Royal Marines, the Royal Navy special forces, boarded the ship via lines from helicopters. Iran responded by summoning British Ambassador Rob Macaire to its Foreign Ministry to explain what it described as an “illegal seizure,” which had been earlier described by the U.K. as enforcing the EU’s sanctions regime against Syria. Picardo said in his statement, “With my consent, our Port and Law Enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.” Nonetheless, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Gibraltar had seized the ship after a request from the U.S. to Britain. The Spanish are also calling the seizure of the ship a violation of Spanish sovereignty, as the Royal Marines boarded the tanker in waters claimed by Spain, rather than in the port of Gibraltar. “We are analyzing the circumstances and seeing how they affect our sovereignty,” Borrell said. Borrell also said that Washington had alerted London about the supertanker’s presence in European waters, rather than informing Spain.
As if part of a script, National Security Adviser John Bolton welcomed the seizure of the tanker. “Excellent news: U.K. has detained the supertanker Grace 1 laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” Bolton tweeted. “America & our allies will continue to prevent regimes in Tehran & Damascus from profiting off this illicit trade.”