The British-owned oil tanker British Heritage received a Royal Navy escort by the frigate HMS Montrose earlier this week, following a new push by the United States to form an international coalition to patrol waters near Iran amid heightened tensions in the region, a string of explosions on cargo vessels and a downed US spy drone.
Wednesday evening, a US Department of Defense official leaked to Reuters that the Montrose had warned off five Iranian speedboats believed to belong to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite paramilitary force the US has claimed - without evidence - sponsors terrorist acts in the region.
Mazda Majidi, an author, journalist and anti-war activist, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Thursday that the facts of the story just don’t add up.
“The details are pretty sketchy right now. Right this minute what the British are saying is the tanker was in international waters, but was kind of closely guarded by a British warship. Which is kind of unusual, because like, every day, hundreds of oil tankers come and go, and especially one that didn’t have any cargo, it’s kind of unusual for it to have, you know, military naval support right behind it. So we don’t know if this was a provocation or not; we don’t know if this was in international waters or Iranian waters.”
“But also we have to look at the context … an Iranian oil tanker was seized by the British last week, and they still haven’t released it. And the Iranians have said throughout all of this process that ‘whatever you do to us, we will strike back, we will not just take things laying down,’ and this might be - if this is, in fact, a case of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps trying to seize the oil tanker, it would be in retaliation for the Iranian oil tanker that was seized off of Gibraltar.”
Majidi said it was “very likely” that the parts of the US government such as “John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and others,” were still trying to create a pretext for a military strike against Iran.
“Ever since the signing of the JCPOA, the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, they have been looking for ways to undo any sort of deal, any sort of an agreement,” Majidi said of the US national security adviser and secretary of state. “One of the quick ways of doing that, even now, after the JCPOA has been essentially cancelled by the Trump administration ... but even right now, a military confrontation would be useful to them because it’s a quick way of undoing any agreements, any understandings that might have been reached. So conflict, at least in that sense, for parts of the US ruling class and probably the British, is a good thing now and not a bad thing.”
“I think the way that this is often being portrayed is that Iran is being portrayed as the aggressor, whereas what Iran sees [itself] as having to do is retaliate and show the capability to strike back, because otherwise it fears things will get worse. If the US and the UK can … beat down Iraq and nothing happens, then they will move on to the next thing on their list, whether that be bombing specific targets or whatever the next thing will be,” Majidi said.
“But yes, conflict for - I mean, someone like Bolton has not even been shy or diplomatic about hiding his intentions of wanting a conflict, and there are widely reported media accounts of how he told, the last time around under [US President George W. Bush], he told the Israelis that ‘You guys should a strike on Iran and it’ll force the hand of the US administration.’ This is why he was with the Bush administration.”
Majidi noted that “quite often, in the coming hours and days” after Western media breaks a story, “things turn out to be quite different from how they were originally reported.” He noted that the IRGC’s flat denial of any encounter with any foreign ship in the last 24 hours makes the British account all the more suspicious.
“Patrols by the IRGC’s Navy vessels have been underway in the Persian Gulf based on current procedures and missions assigned to them with vigilance, precision and strength,” the Public Relations Department of the IRGC Navy’s Fifth Naval Zone said in a statement, Al-Masirah news reported.
“In the past 24 hours, there has been no encounter with foreign ships, including British ones,” it added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a similar statement, pointing out specifically, “What they have said themselves and the claims that have been made are for creating tension, and these claims have no value.”
Majidi noted that while “different lines” do emerge within the Iranian government, it’s not to the extent portrayed in Western media, which presents Tehran as riven through with factions and competing groups that act as authorities unto themselves.
“They haven’t been undisciplined; it hasn’t been the case where different branches of the government have been doing different things when it comes to the US or the British, and in this instance, if this were a case of different factions doing different things, taking different approaches, you would expect the Revolutionary Guard Corps to say, ‘Yes, it happened, and we did it, and the reason we did it was in retaliation for Gibraltar.’”
“The fact that both Zarif, the foreign minister, and the Revolutionary Guard are denying that any event of significance happened, again, makes it more suspicious where this story is even coming from.”