Is Iran Being Baited by Another British Vessel?

James Sweet III | @jsweetIII

At approximately 11:14 PM on Thursday, a British flagged vessel, the Atlantic Pioneer, entered Iranian territorial waters. Shortly before the ship entered Iranian claimed waters, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a tweet condemning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Navy for its actions in the Strait of Hormuz. Specifically, he condemned actions taken against previous British vessels in the region.

The Struggle for the Strait

The Atlantic Pioneer is not the first ship to enter the region. However, it is unique as there is no evidence of military escorts, which two British ships have previously received. This also comes on the heels of the seizure of an Iranian ship at Gibraltar. The Straits Times also reported that the United Kingdom did not intend to escort every tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

On top of all this, Iran reportedly attempted to blockade a British tanker going through the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, A British warship was escorting the vessel. Iran denied any attempts at blockading the ship but did warn that it might retaliate over the seizure at Gibraltar.

As of 11:39 PM, the Atlantic Pioneer was predicted to sail near Sirri Island. The island is home to oil fields and Iranian oil platforms. The United States bombed these platforms in 1988, and the infrastructure was later reconstructed.

@AviationTracker noted that there appeared to be boats stationed on the island, although whether they are a part of the Iranian Navy or not is unknown.

Another British ship in the region, Hakusan, is following a safer path through the Strait of Hormuz by staying outside of Iranian territorial waters.

If the Atlantic Pioneer has no naval escorts, then it would undebatably be a risky move for the vessel. If there is a naval escort, however, the United Kingdom could be attempting to send a message to Iran. Freedom of navigation has always been an issue for the Western powers in crucial shipping lanes, like the Taiwan Strait.

The Atlantic Pioneer may not be the last ship that sails near, or even into, Iranian territorial waters. Including the Atlantic Pioneer, there are reportedly six ships in the region.

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