Iran

Iran Reportedly Seizes U.S. Merchant Ship

Pentagon confirms merchant ship was boarded but says no American sailors were on board.

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Norman Einstein/Wikipedia

Al-Arabiya, a Saudi government-owned news network, has reported that a U.S. cargo ship carrying up to 34 Americans was seized by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Pentagon confirmed a merchant ship was seized but denied any U.S. citizens were aboard. Via Reuters:

A Pentagon spokesman said Iranian forces had boarded a Marshall Island-flagged vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, in the Gulf. He said the boarding occurred after Iranian patrol boats fired shots across the vessel's bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters.

The ship had no U.S. citizens aboard, the spokesman said, contradicting Al-Arabiya's report which said there were 34 U.S. sailors on board. He said it was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz when the incident occurred.

Earlier this month, the U.S. deployed the USS Theodore Roosevelt off the coast of Yemen to intercept Iranian weapons possibly headed to Yemeni rebels. On Friday, tensions appeared to ease as the U.S. and Iran pulled some ships back.

Iran has previously threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, about 24 miles at its narrowest point, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea, as a response to Western sanctions. The strait is located north of Yemen, which borders the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.

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    1. Legally no. If the Iranian ships are in Yemeni waters, the government of Yemen has every right to board them and also has the right to use the US navy to do it. This ship was not in Iranian waters and was not even headed for Iran. Our boarding their ships is known as customs. Their boarding our ship is known as piracy.

      1. If the Pentagon spokesman says that they were ordered deeper into Iranian waters, doesn’t that imply that they were in Iranian waters to begin with?

        1. Yes.

        2. No. In places like the straights where a ship can’t pass without going into one country or the others’ territorial waters, ships are allowed by international law right of transit. As long as they don’t stop or loiter and just transit the striaghts, they are not legally considered to be in either country’s territorial waters and neither country has the legal right to board them the way they can any other ship that comes within their territorial waters.

          1. John, that’s not quite correct.

            See here.

            Subsection A. Rules Applicable to All Ships

            Article 17. Right of innocent passage

            Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.

            Article 18. Meaning of passage

            1. Passage means navigation through the territorial sea for the purpose of:

            (a) traversing that sea without entering internal waters or calling at a roadstead or port facility outside internal waters; …

            2. Passage shall be continuous and expeditious. However, passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only in so far as the same are incidental to ordinary navigation or are rendered necessary by force majeure or distress or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships or aircraft in danger or distress.

            Article 19. Meaning of innocent passage

            1. Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.

            2. Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in any of the following activities:

            1. (a) any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;

              (b) any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;

              (c) any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State;

              (d) any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State;

              (e) the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft;

              (f) the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device;

              (g) the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State

              (h) any act of wilful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention;

              (i) any fishing activities

              (j) the carrying out of research or survey activities

              (k) any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any other facilities or installations of the coastal State;

              (l) any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage.

              Some of these exceptions strike me as being a fucking barn door that could be used to justify stopping almost any ship.

              1. My guess is that they will say that the ship was engaged in espionage. That’s a popular one.

                1. Pretty much everyone looking at Iran a little bit wrong is a spy.

                2. Yeah, they can always claim it was a warship. That, however, does not change the rules or what the ship actually was. I am actually quite correct.

                  1. There is a significant difference between a blanket prohibition and one that has some big loopholes.

                    However, if the ship is a merchant man (and I expect it is and that this is merely some stupid provocation like the Revolutionary Guard’s detention of that british boarding party 7-8 years ago near Bandar Abbas), you are absolutely right, the seizure is illegal. I suspect that Iran is hoping to create a defacto arrangement where the straits and the Persian Gulf becomes a no-go area for U.S. war ships and the Iranian govt holds a veto power over who transits.

                    Free trade on the oceans has been a U.S. strategic policy since the 1790’s, and if Obama doesn’t resolve this well, that most salubrious product of the pax americana could become a casualty.

                3. “Maersk Tigris reportedly ran into trouble when the Iranian authorities deemed that the vessel was violating territorial borders. The ship was transiting the Strait of Hormuz.”

                  http://shippingwatch.com/carri…..662772.ece

                  Then there is this: “According to a statement from a ‘senior administration official’ obtained by Hayes Brown of BuzzFeed, the Tigris was ‘intercepted by several [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy] patrol craft’ while transiting an ‘internationally recognized maritime route.’

                  The statement suggests that the US may believe that the Iranian interdiction of the vessel was in fact illegitimate – raising the possibility that Tehran has interfered with trade through one of the world’s most vital commercial chokepoints.
                  Analysis of open-source data of the Tigris’ reported position suggests that the ship was in fact interdicted in international waters?.”
                  http://www.businessinsider.com…..ies-2015-4

      2. You say the ship was not in Iranian waters…where did you read that? Not trying to be contentious; the Reuters story is skimpy and says “[the Pentagon spokesman] said the boarding occurred after Iranian patrol boats fired shots across the vessel’s bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters.” The phrase “deeper into Iranian waters” implies that the ship was already in Iranian waters. OTOH many countries are more than a little “creative” about what constitutes national water.

        I’m also inclined to wait before judging because I wonder what the Iranians would have to gain by just grabbing a merchant ship out of the blue.

        1. Legally it wasn’t. See my point above about right of passage in straights.

          1. Well, that’s kinda my point. If the ship was legitimately in the straight it wasn’t in Iranian waters–and hence wouldn’t be going deeper into Iranian waters.

            It’s possible that the Pentagon spokesman didn’t choose his words carefully enough. I’ll need to see more data before I jump to the conclusion that the Iranians committed an act of piracy.

            1. “Strait”. Don’t follow John’s lead on spelling.

              1. That Hormuz is a real cis-gendered shitlord.

            2. It was transiting. There was no reason for it to have been doing anything but that. The spokesman was speaking literally not legally.

              1. I did see on a BBC news website that the spokesman did say the ship was in international waters, so the Reuters account is incomplete.

                “The ship was in an area recognised as an international shipping lane, he went on.”

              2. I think people are missing John’s point.

                All of the Straits of Hormuz are territorial waters. And there is nothing wrong with sailing in those territorial waters, anymore than there is anything wrong with an Iranian cargo ship sailing close to Florida on its way to Costa Rica.

                Innocent transit through territorial waters is legal under the UN conventions.

                So, a ship going through the straits will be in either Omani or Iranian territorial waters. There is no international channel or free zone. So a ship being in Iranian waters while in the Straits is about as unusual as a car being on a specific side of the double yellow line on the highway.

                1. Say, for example, the Iranian warship was in the straight betwen Florida and Cuba. Unless they were carrying nuclear missiles bound for Cuba purportedly to be used to threaten US soil, they would be transiting.

      3. Our boarding their ships is known as customs. Their boarding our ship is known as piracy.

        Uh, John – we board ships in *international* waters all over the world, including the Gulf.

        1. Sure we do, always with the permission of the flagged country. There is an entire process for boarding a ship that involves the Navy talking to the State Department who then talks to the country under whom the ship is flagged and that country giving us permission.

          1. Because of our behavior in other matters, I’m a little suspicious that we may not always be punctilious about this.

            1. I’ve sailed on several southcom patrols with the USCG and one Gulf of Aden deployment with the Navy. I can tell you that we do operate using pre existing agreements with other nations and will leave everything else alone- including Iranian fishing vessels although we get reports that they drive Somali fishermen out of Somali waters using firearms and explosives.

              Sometimes an agreement requires that we get the permission from a specific office before boarding, and so we’ll wait 15 hours because the official has gone home for the day and he’ll be damned if he answers the phone from home.

              There is a workaround- a Right of Approach visit to determine nationality, but in the 4 years I was sailing we never used it, let alone abused it.

              1. Any experience in the South or Central American drug war zones?

                It would be interesting to know if Iran pre-authorized this with anyone.

          2. Sure we do, always with the permission of the flagged country.

            Uh, no. That’s not true at all.

            I’ve *done* these stops before. No one is calling the state department to call another nation to get permission for the stop – the permission also isn’t arranged beforehand.

            The procedure is that the Navy declares a country persona-non-grata and that no-one is allowed to trade with them. Then if the one of the US Navy’s ships sees another ship that looks like it might be heading towards one of that nation’s ports, we call them up on B2B and demand they heave-to and accept a boarding party. An *armed* boarding party, often with helicopter support, that will go through the ship’s paperwork and search the whole vessel.

            And that doesn’t count the small vessels we stop coming up from SA on suspicion of being drug traffickers – we don’t have blanket permission from those countries to stop their flagged vessels at will.

            Or the stops made for counter-piracy.

            1. I’ve *done* these stops before. No one is calling the state department to call another nation to get permission for the stop – the permission also isn’t arranged beforehand.

              There is when a lawyer’s on board.

    2. What’s the whole distinction that causes it to be a “US merchant vessel”, but is a “Marshallese-flagged vessel”? I sort of understand the concept of “flag of convenience”, but not as it relates to this story.

      1. The Marshall Islands are a US protectorate. That means the US are under the same duty to protect their ships as we would be our own.

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  1. Where is Sheldon Richman to denounce the US for committing an act of war by having merchants ships in the area.

    1. I see no difference between this ship and Adam Lanza.

      1. Beat me to it.

        1. Which makes you no better than Adam Lanza, waffles.

          FOR SHAME

          *shakes head*

      2. Maybe it was transporting a boat load of American Sniper blue Rays to the UAE in which case it’s worse than Adam Lanza.

  2. In case anyone is wondering, the US provides defense for the Marshall Islands. Americans on board or not, we’re involved.

    1. We provide defense for all of Europe too.

      1. Maybe you guys should cut that shit out.

        1. Many of us are, but our fellow countrypersons keep electing statist global meddlers.

        2. Wait…we can just not pay our blood money to the government that they use to do this stuff?!? Holy shit! Wesley Snipes was right! Always bet on black!

          1. Epi, some motherfuckers are always trying to iceskate uphill.

            1. When you understand the nature of a thing, Hugh, you know what it’s capable of. Like your…oh never mind.

        3. Hey, I don’t make the rules…

          1. But you still identify with the rulemakers?

            1. This is all your fault, Hugh.

            2. I’m just tryin’ to make a dollar outta fiteen cent.

      2. And it’s about damn time that we start demanding tribute taxing them.

        1. Yeah, at least Athenians didn’t run Delian League solely on their coin!

          Seriously, rules for having US troops stationed in your country should be

          a) Payment as per schedule depending on amount of troops based
          b) Fixed term (four or five year) referendum whether to keep US troops in the country

      3. This is a bit more than that. We are in a Compact of Free Association with the Marshall Islands.

        1. Freedom of Association is racist. Compact null and void.

        2. We can’t force then to bake us cakes?

        3. Holy crap, can you imagine being the 5 or so guys they post to the islands for “defense” these days?

          1. We have some sizable infrastructure there. For us, not for them.

  3. Wow… tensions increasing with Iran. It’s almost like Jimmy Carter is president again. Except this president isn’t as capable as Jimmy was.

    1. Back when Obumbler was inaugurated I said to myself, Ok, not thrilled with this but maybe he won’t be that bad. Give him a chance. There’s no way he could be worse than Carter.

      1. Hey, he still hasn’t fended off a killer rabbit yet. Give him time.

      2. Weakness causes wars. The Iranians see Obama as a chump desperate to get any kind of deal to make his legacy. They would never have tried something this stupid with a President of either party they held in anything but utter contempt.

        This situation is made even more dangerous by the fact that Obama is a total narcissist and takes every slight personally. There is just no predicting when Obama is going to take a provocation as a personal insult and completely overreact.

        Here we have one side, the Iranians, being encouraged to act provocatively and humiliate the world’s last super power and one the other side we have the super power being lead by an unpredictable narcissist who for all of his weakness is liable to at any moment take something as a personal insult and completely overreact.

        If you are not afraid by all of this, you should be.

        1. John, what exactly is it that we should be afraid of? I’m not seeing it.

          1. Obama bumbling his way into a real war with Iran.

            1. Ok, that would suck just like Iraq and Afghanistan suck. But the only “afraid” I see is “afraid we’re going to get involved in another costly adventurism expedition”. I’m getting the feeling that you think I should be more afraid in an “actually afraid” way that I’m just not seeing.

              1. That is true. It is not like they are going to invade or anything. I just don’t look at wars as anything to look forward to.

              2. “Ok, that would suck just like Iraq and Afghanistan suck.”

                Iran would suck more than Iraq and Afghanistan because we’re currently relying on Iranian backed militias in Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS and Iran is one of the only stable countries left in that part of the Middle East, other than Saudi Arabia.

                At present there are two powers left in the Middle East after we blew up Iraq – Saudi Arabia and Iran. What happens if we bumble into a war with Iran and blow up that country? We’d basically be handing the Middle East to Saudi Arabia.

                1. Turkey?

                2. Iran is also a fairly stable and economically developed country where most of the people have a lot more to lose than in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s also a lot bigger and more populous. A real war with Iran would be way worse than Iraq or Afghanistan.

                3. Iran is one of the only stable countries left in that part of the Middle East

                  I bet we can fix that!

        2. Weakness causes wars.

          Yeah, and so does inconsistency. I mean, if I were an Iranian policymaker, I wouldn’t know what message to be taking from this guy. On one hand he’s willing to completely alienate one of his country’s major allies to sign a nuclear deal with you. On the other, he’s sending warships to intercede in your intervention in support of your allies in Yemen. Even though he didn’t really do anything about it when you were helping them rise to power. On the other hand, he’s providing support and relying on you in Syria. Except when he’s not.

          Eventually someone’s going to justifiably conclude there’s no particular rhyme or reason to U.S. foreign policy and just start ignoring us.

          1. I am pretty sure we are well passed that point Bill.

            1. If so, then war looks increasingly inevitable. And, honestly, it isn’t particularly clear to me that it will be the Iranians’ fault.

          2. Wouldn’t it be more dangerous to ignore the US if we have an inconsistent foreign policy? I mean, we can still fuck up any other country in the world if we want to. Can’t really ignore that even if it is completely incoherent.

            1. Wouldn’t it be more dangerous to ignore the US if we have an inconsistent foreign policy?

              What would be the point? If there’s no fundamental logic to US. foreign policy, then you’re best off treating it like a lightning strike, some accident of nature that you have no way of controlling. Do what they want? Then tomorrow they might decide they didn’t want that and attack you anyway. Tell the to fuck off? They might just do so. Or they might attack you. There’s no rational way of assuring a favorable outcome or avoiding an unfavorable one. So why bother?

              1. OK, fair point. If you are going to be crazy, then you have to go all the way and nuke the moon.

                1. Kind of. Nuke the moon means, as far as I’ve been able to figure out, considering apeshit crazy responses to going against our wishes. But, it still only works if doing what you want pays off.

              2. For example, Gaddaffi gave up his WMDs, and we killed him anyways. So apparently US foreign policy has jack-all to do with whether you have WMDs.

                1. So apparently US foreign policy has jack-all to do with whether you have WMDs.

                  Or it is the opposite of what one might think. If you have nukes, you won’t be attacked by the US. And just say “nuclear weapons”. “WMD” is just vague noise.

        3. Weakness causes wars.

          You’re fucking brilliant. Just fucking brilliant.

    2. That bar is the so low, no one could do the limbo under it.

    3. But commie kid was here doing a victory dance over Obo’s signing an historic agreement meaning peace for all time or something.

  4. I’m always somewhat amused and confused by the “ship of country X flagged as country Y” thing. It’s a “flag of convenience,” right? Country X has stricter shipping laws and regulations, and so (somehow) it’s OK for it to be registered in another country with looser laws. I suppose the analogy would be if I could register my car in Nevada and avoid California smog regulations. (Which CA prohibits, though.)

    1. I’m always somewhat amused and confused by the “ship of country X flagged as country Y” thing. It’s a “flag of convenience,” right?

      Pretty much. That’s why there are so many “liberian” freighters. Liberia has traditionally certified any rust heap you can haul into port.

      1. Liberia, Panama, and the Bahamas.

      2. “[…]That’s why there are so many “liberian” freighters. Liberia has traditionally certified any rust heap you can haul into port.”

        And the insurers’ actuaries are perfectly comfortable setting rates in accord.

    2. The US Coast Guard has a fat tariff on all maintenance done on US flagged ships. That’s why there aren’t any. Want your costs to go up 50%? Fly a US flag.

      1. If we can’t tax our shipping industry to death, then we just won’t have one. God we are fucking stupid.

        1. That’s one nail in the coffin. Another one is the Jones Act.

        2. Maritima law (in this country) is incredibly complex and yes, stupid.

          For years there were oddball tarriffs on Ships based on where they left, where they stopped, where they sailed to etc.

          Recently some of those tarriffs were dropped and overnight, Seattle had cruise ships all over it’s harbor.

          1. I think you still have to hit a ‘foreign’ port to avoid employing US union merchant marine labor, so sailing from Seattle, you’ll tie up in Prince William Sound or similar.

            1. Yeah, there was an article about it in the Seattle times when the whole thing changed over. I kind of found the whole thing fascinating.

              1. When did this happen? Because I live right next to the bay and there have been shitloads of cruise ships here as long as I can remember (granted that’s only about six years total).

                1. When did this happen? Because I live right next to the bay and there have been shitloads of cruise ships here as long as I can remember (granted that’s only about six years total).

                  N00B. I wanna say it was in the early 2000s. Possibly around 2003?

                  No wait, shit, 2009?

                  http://www.seattletimes.com/se…..n-seattle/

                  Hmm, maybe mid 2000s. I came here in 1989 and they didn’t exist until after 2000. Then one of the byzantine maritime rules or laws changed and overnight the waterfront was full of them. And environmental groups were not… happy Bob.

                2. The cruise ships started sailing heavily out of Seattle post-9/11 when the border security tightened.

            2. Years ago, I went on an Alaskan cruise. The Sun Princess, registered out of Monrovia. It had to leave from Vancouver, so I needed a passport for an American cruise.

      2. The only thing that keeps those taxes going is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which stipulates that ships going from one US port directly to another US port be US flagged.

        In other words, the dearth of the US flagged ships is a failure of the free market.

        1. On an interesting note, McCain tried to get it (MMA of 1920 aka Jones Act) annulled in its entirety.

          1. It absolutely fucks over Hawaiians.

            We have cheap goods coming over from Asia, and the cargo carriers aren’t allowed stop in Honolulu on the way.

            There’s an entire terminal at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach that takes the containers from Maersk and Hanjin, puts them on an American flagged Matson ship, and sends them back out into the Pacific. So Hawaiians pay 3x what they would without the Jones act.

            1. Like I said, those high prices in Hawaii are a failure of the free market

            2. Fuck them! They have a tropical island paradise!

              Oh wait…when I go I have to pay 3x more for everything too.

              This is completely unfair!

              1. Do you have any idea how much it cost me to get drunk at the pool there?

                1. Seriously, I don’t remember. I was drunk.

                2. I know exactly how much, I did that too. Then I realized that was hella expensive and started mixing up my own drink to take to the beach. The ocean is better than a pool any day anyway.

                  1. Kona doesn’t have much in the way of beaches. Yet. Give it half a million years.

                    1. Kona has the best coffee in the world, what need have they of beaches?

                    2. The reason coffee is so plentiful there is…. property tax law.

                      If you’re zoned ag, your taxes are way lower. Coffee grows really well in that rocky volcanic soil, so all of the residents grow it and contract out the harvest. They usually break even, but their taxes are much lower.

            3. Interesting. If a GOP candidate were smart, he’d run on “repeal the Jones Act to make things cheaper for Hawaiians” and at least try to make Hawaii competitive. At least it would put the Democrats in an awkward position and prevent them from taking that state for granted.

              1. I think that might be like trying to flip NY or MA, though.

    3. So is there some kind of problem with people avoiding the annoyances of government by flying various flags? Because that’s essentially the only reason they do it (let’s leave pirates out of this discussion).

      1. Don’t be leavin’ us out, ya scurvy son of a sea cow!

        Arrrrrrrrrr….

      2. ” let’s leave pirates out of this discussion”

        Too late !

        *takes down British flag and hoists the jolly Rogers.

      3. let’s leave pirates out of this discussion

        I fully support state recognition of ass piracy

  5. I liked this movie better when it was called the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

    1. Oh I thought this was Captain Phillips.

      1. It brings back memories of the USS Pueblo.

  6. Do you want middle east military adventurism? Cause this is how you get middle east military adventurism.

    1. In retrospect, “Free Trade and Salors’ Rights” doesn’t sound like such a bad casus belli.

  7. In one move the Iranians accomplished 2 things: 1. spit in the administration’s face and 2. threatened a vital sea lane.

    Will be fascinating to see how administration apologists respond to this. My guess is 1. not a US ship and/or 2. it shouldn’t have been there.

    1. That dog won’t hunt. The Iranians have spit in Obama’s face. My guess is that he grovels and humiliates himself and the country just enough to get them to turn the ship back over and we get back to the real business of legitimizing the Iranian nuclear program in return for delaying it just long enough for Obama to leave office claiming he made a deal.

      There is, however, a small chance that Obama does something stupid or overreacts or the Iranians get greedy and demand more than just Obama groveling some more, in which case a war is a real possibility.

    2. “Will be fascinating to see how administration apologists respond to this. My guess is 1. not a US ship and/or 2. it shouldn’t have been there.”

      HAHAHAHHAA

      You know the administration too well – they’ve already done both. The current party line is that it’s a Marshall Island ship, not an American one, and that it was in Iranian water. Apparently the water it was in has historically been disputed and no former US president has been willing to allow the Iranians to outright claim it, so the Obama administration might basically be allowing the Iranians to claim water that isn’t actually theirs.

      1. It wouldn’t shock me if the entire thing was a put up job done with the knowledge and approval of the administration. Obama is that fucking craven and desperate to get a “deal” with Iran.

        1. What? Why would you say that? Why on Earth would Obama want a ship registered to an island with a US free association pact to be hijacked by Iranians? That seems like a great way to fuck up Obama’s deal with them.

          1. Because it will allow him to back down ceding them sovereignty over the waters.

            1. Eh, I think you’re being too conspiratorial here, John.

              1. John wears only the latest in tin-foil head gear.

  8. So, in what way is a ship registered in the Marshall Islands, owned by a Danish company and without any US citizens aboard a US ship?

    1. They’re all our ships.

    2. All your ships are belong to us, Zeb.

    3. If it was actually Marshallese owed, we would have an obligation to defend it.

      But it isn’t. It’s Denmark’s problem.

  9. The article identifies the ship as the Maersk Tigris, Maersk is a Danish company and the Tigris is Marshall Islands flagged, so I think the headline is wrong about it being an American ship.

    1. The Marshall Islands are a US protectorate. We have the same duty to protect their ships as we do our own. So it is effectively an American ship.

      1. If it’s Marshallese owned. But they have an open registry, and it’s foreign owned.

        1. None of that matters. What matters is what country is was flagged under. Every ship is flagged under some country. And if this one was flagged under the Marshall Islands, it is effectively a US ship, unless you want the US to no longer consider the Marshal Islands a protectorate, which isn’t going to happen.

          1. I believe the compact requires us to defend Marshallese territory. That’s it. If these Cargo Ships really needed protection, they could have been reflagged as American.

            We that a lot with Kuwaiti oil tankers under Reagan.

          2. US to no longer consider the Marshal Islands a protectorate, which isn’t going to happen.

            Have you forgotten who the president is? By the time this is done, the Marshall Islands will be an Iranian protectorate.

            1. OK, I just looked the Marshall Islands up on Google Maps, and now I know who’s going to get fucked if Global Warming really is true. Those are less “islands”, and more “island outlines”.

      2. Do Liberia or Panama have a duty to protect all of the ships registered in those places?

        1. Yes they do. Attacking or seizing those ships would be an act of war. Of course they have no ability to protect them and would look to the US to do so. They do, however, have a duty and the right to protect ships flagged under their flag.

        2. Yep, that’s the purpose of ‘flagging a ship’. In the old-timey days, raiders and pirates knew that attacking a ship flying a certain flag either meant repurcussions were bound to come down, or it was going to be a milk run.

          1. Seems like that purposed has changed to where you can get the best tax deal. Because Liberia sure as hell isn’t going to protect ships from pirates in the Straits of Malacca.

            1. I mean, can you really say that someone has a duty to do something that is completely impossible?

              1. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing there are downsides to flagging your ship under Liberia.

            2. That is because the world has always had the US Navy to keep the peace and ensure free shipping. Take that away and people will stop flagging in those places. Of course without open seas, the world will be dramatically poorer. But hey, Sheldon Richman assures me that all US involvement abroad is evil and never results in any good.

              1. Come, John, credit where credit is due – Royal Navy did that job in 18th and 19th century!

              2. You seem to put a lot of stock in what Sheldon Richman has to say.

                I do understand the value of protecting shipping. Though I imagine a consortium of smaller Navies could do the job. Or some sort of mercenary Navy funded by shipping companies or insurers of shipping companies.

                What I have really learned here today is that the US needs to get rid of its idiotic shipping regulations and taxes.

                1. Though I imagine a consortium of smaller Navies could do the job.

                  Until they ran into a country with a big navy. And there effectively are no navies out there outside the US, Russia and China. Do you want the other two to do the job Zeb? Good luck with that.

      3. That explains it.

  10. BTW, it’s right in the center of this shot, and it’s sure not heading to the claimed destination of Jebel Ali:
    http://www.marinetraffic.com/

    1. Is this before or after it was forced closer to Bandar Abbas? I mean, if it were boarded when it was in the strait, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be headed toward Jebel Ali. It’s a huge port.

  11. This was over a money dispute between Iran and Maersk.

    1. Well, if that’s the case, given the US position on it’s power to extract money from people not properly under their jurisdiction, there isn’t much moral high ground here.

  12. So a ship under US protection legally in transit has been commandeered by Iran. So what will we do about it?

    (1) Confront Iran diplomatically and risk Obama’s “deal”.

    (2) Confront Iran militarily and risk a shooting war, which would derail the “deal” and get Obama blamed for starting a war.

    (3) Do nothing, let the situation blow over and thus cede to Iran control of the Strait of Hormuz and signal the people we are supposed to protect that we will do nothing on their behalf when the crunch comes.

    I’m going with (3).

    1. More likely its the IRGC sending their own letter to the American leadership, in much the same vein as the open letter to Iran’s leadership from the 47 dunces. It indicates the real political weakness of both groups, in that they are being marginalized and are acting rashly to try and blow any deal apart. Each current success continues to expose the failings of the status quo ante.

      Obama should ignore it as an IRGC stunt.

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