11:51 GMT +324 September 2019
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    Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 sits anchored after it was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria, in the Strait of Gibraltar, southern Spain July 20, 2019

    Despite UK’s Release of Iranian Tanker, Tehran’s ‘Strategic Patience’ With West is Waning

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    On Thursday, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar released the seized Iranian supertanker Grace 1, despite a last-minute appeal by Washington to turn over custody of the oil tanker to US naval authorities instead.

    The decision by Gibraltar Supreme Court Chief Justice Anthony Dudley to deny a US application to take over the detention of the vessel is an important event, as it shows other countries are siding with Iran over the US, Mohammad Marandi, an expert on American studies and postcolonial literature who teaches at the University of Tehran, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Thursday. 

    The tanker had been detained at the Mediterannean territory since early July amid claims that it was smuggling Iranian crude oil from Iran to a refinery in Syria.

    “I’m not sure what’s going to happen - we don’t know until it’s released and reached its final destination and it’s allowed to do what it was supposed to do in the first place,” Marandi told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker. “That may take a few days. But it is good news, because piracy in today’s world is very dangerous, especially with the trade wars and the conflicts that the US is pursuing on multiple fronts. I don’t know how important this will be in the context of the European Union and Britain standing up to the US. It is an important event, but how important it actually is, I don’t know yet.”

    “We’d have to go to the US leaving the nuclear deal and then imposing sanctions, forcing other countries to abide by its sanctions, the maximum pressure campaign to impose hardship on ordinary Iranians,” Marandi responded, when asked about the origins of the geopolitical tension between the US and Iran.

    “But more recently, the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign did not achieve the results that the US wanted. They [went] a step further, and they started an attempt to block Iranian tankers. Two tankers were stopped briefly in Brazil, one in Saudi Arabia and a couple in Singapore, and then we had this particular Iranian supertanker that was blocked off the coast of Gibraltar,” Marandi explained. 

    “So, Iran decided that in order to stop the US from continuing this confiscation of tankers, [it] will retaliate and take a British tanker, because the British stopped the Iranian supertanker,” he noted. 

    “Almost immediately, the Saudis released the tanker, the Brazilians allowed the two ships that were actually taking corn to Iran [to be released], and things began to change,” Marandi said. “And now we see the judge make this decision to release the tanker, [which] shouldn't have been taken in the first place, because it was not breaking any law.”

    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, Washington has increased pressure on Tehran, reinstating previous sanctions and imposing tougher new ones. 

    “After the Americans left the nuclear deal, the Iranians didn’t respond, and they were trying to show the international community that it was the Americans that were escalating. The EU also asked Iran - or literally begged Iran, according to some Iranian Foreign Ministry officials - to wait and not leave the nuclear deal and give them a few weeks to sort things out, which they didn’t,” Marandi said. “So, for over a year, the Iranians were patient. They didn’t respond, and maybe the Americans miscalculated and thought this was a sign of weakness, and that’s why maybe the US drone entered Iranian airspace [in June], probably to intimidate Iranians.” 

    “But I think now Iran’s strategic patience has now come to an end, and they have decided they will respond and retaliate. So, they are now decreasing their commitments to the nuclear deal as time goes by, and they are pushing back on multiple fronts. We see already the UAE changing its policy toward Iran, and we see the growing divisions between UAE and Saudi proxies in southern Yemen. So, things are not going well for the US,” Marandi explained.

    In addition to complicated relations with the US, Iran is also facing challenges in its relations with countries like India, despite the two being longtime friends. 

    “The Iranians are not happy with what is happening in Kashmir, although so far, they haven’t taken a very harsh stance, because they don’t want to make the situation more complicated, and they want to see where things are going to go and what the Indian government is going to do,” Marandi explained.

    Longtime tensions between India and Iran’s neighbor Pakistan over the states of Jammu and Kashmir escalated this spring after a terror attack in the region killed dozens of Indian security personnel. The situation, which dates to the 1947 partition that created India and Pakistan out of the British-ruled Raj, came to a head last week after New Delhi announced the suspension of the region's special status, Sputnik reported. On Thursday, eight Indian and Pakistani military personnel were killed amid clashes along the Line of Control border between the nations.

    “The Iranians are very unhappy; there were protests in front of the Indian Embassy in Tehran, but at the same time, Iran has a very old relationship with India. The Indians, ironically, were among the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement” of 120 countries that are not formally allied with any power blocs, Marandi told Sputnik.

    “So, it is a very ancient relationship the two countries have. The Iranian language, Persian, used to be the official language of the Indian subcontinent before the British came and colonized the land. But it is very complicated right now. Iran’s relationship with Pakistan is also very complicated right now, because the Pakistanis have, under Saudi pressure, allowed extremists to be active alongside the Iranian border …. Afghanistan [relations are] complicated. The whole region is very complicated now for Iran, to the west and to the east,” Marandi added.

    “Iran’s allies are diverse. Iran has many regional allies, like Iraq, Turkey, but each in their own way, because we have differences over Syria, Qatar, thanks to Saudi Arabia and Oman,” Marandi continued. “But to call them allies is complicated. Iran also has very good relations with the Russians, the Chinese. And if the Europeans are willing to grow a backbone, the Iranians are more than willing to have very good relations with Europe.” 

    “The same with the US. The reason Iran has serious problems with the US, at least from the view of Tehran, is US hegemonic ambitions, ongoing wars and aggressions in the region, [its] support for extremism and Saudi Arabia and [its] support for apartheid of Palestine.”

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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