Tensions in the Persian Gulf continued to rise after the UK called on Iran Monday to release the UK-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, seized last week in the Strait of Hormuz.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson told reporters that the British ship was seized “under false and illegal pretenses and the Iranians should release it and its crew immediately."
“We do not seek confrontation with Iran, but it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to seize a ship going about legitimate business through internationally recognized shipping lanes,” the spokesperson added.
However, according to Ghasemi, Iran’s capture of the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz Friday is simply a reaction to UK forces seizing an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4.
“So, this is like a total reaction from the Iranian side … Iran was actually doing a regular training and then [its tanker] was seized by the British … If they [the Iranians] don’t react, this will continue, and they would lose their power,” Ghasemi explained.
Tensions between Iran and the US have been running high since US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. Since then, the Trump administration has increased pressure on Tehran, reinstating previous sanctions and imposing tougher new ones.
“If you want to see how it [tensions] started, you have to go back to the time when the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. So, for over a year, Iran stayed in the deal and stayed committed to its side of the bargain and actually tried very hard to convince the US to get back to the deal … So, Iran is in a very difficult [position]. The Trump administration itself has said that this is economic warfare and … the target is not just the government, but the Iranians,” Ghasemi told Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker on Monday.
There is also concern about the latest incidents involving the tankers resulting in a military clash in the Gulf region, Kiriakou noted.
“I know that Iranians are also concerned [about the possibility of a military clash]. However, it seems somehow unlikely because the [first time Trump threatened to attack Iran], he didn’t attack,” Ghasemi told Sputnik. “There was this idea that he felt that Iran wasn’t going to be an easy target if he compared it [to the invasion of Iraq]. So, the idea is that Iran is strong, and it’s not going to be an easy target.”
“Iran is not looking for a war, but if it happens, it’s going to affect the whole region in the Middle East. So, Iranians are concerned, and Iranians are very much under pressure, but … the idea is that Iran is strong and it can defend itself.”
“From the Iranian side, after a year, it seems like the pressure of the US has this effect [in that] those who are willing to keep the deal are also dragging their feet. For over a year, Iranians were trying very hard to keep it. And the Europeans all knew this, all knew that Iran is keeping their side of the bargain. But they didn’t do anything practical to avoid [the deal crumbling],” Ghasemi said.
“Many of the European corporations and businessmen are avoiding having or buying Iranian oil, because they are afraid of the sanctions. There is this idea that the Europeans might like to keep the deal, but they are not not doing anything practical to keep this. This is a total disappointment,” he added.
“The Iranians are saying that if the Trump administration accepts the deal and gets back to the deal, the Iranians are willing to have negotiations over other issues as well, but the first condition is that the Americans should get back to the deal that they signed three to four years ago,” Ghasemi explained.
“If they [the US] enter the deal, and they stay committed to their bargain, we [Iran] are very much willing to having negotiations over other issues. We cannot trust the negotiating partner that you know has withdrawn [once]. What is the guarantee that this wouldn't happen one more time?” Ghasemi added, also noting that “for the Iranian side, it is very unpredictable what Trump” and his advisers will do.