The Iranian Navy intercepted a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Persian Gulf as it passed through an internationally recognized maritime route near the Strait of Hormuz. Four Iranian patrol boats surrounded the commercial vessel, fired shots across its bow, and escorted it to Iranian territory. The status of the vessel and its crew is still unclear.
The U.S. Navy has long maintained security for shipping routes all across the world. And while there have been multiple incidents of piracy along the coast of Africa in recent years, a flagrant action such as the one taken by Iran has not been attempted for some time.
Forgive me for being naïve, but wouldn’t you think Iran would hold off on abducting U.S.-protected cargo ships until after the impending nuclear agreement has been finalized? And if Iran is so brazen without a nuclear weapon and with its economy crippled from years of sanctions, how will it act with refilled coffers and a nuclear bomb?
On April 2, President Obama victoriously announced that U.S.-led negotiators had reached a “historic agreement with Iran which … will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” while Israelis, Saudis, Egyptians, Turks, and others who fear a nuclear-capable Iran watched in disbelief.
What really happened in the nuclear talks is that the world powers and Iran did not reach an understanding. John Kerry, who is spearheading the talks, failed to convince his Iranian counterpart to agree to the framework he hoped to achieve. Instead, both parties issued a “Fact Sheet,” each of which contradicted the other on key issues.
So it seems to the Iranians, as well as to the rest of the world, that no matter what the mullahs in Tehran do, they will not be penalized for their actions. As a result, it’s not business as usual for Iran’s terror ambitions. Right now, business is booming.
Iran is continuing and even stepping up its open support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Tehran is also one of the driving forces behind Syria’s horrific civil war. Meanwhile, even as nuclear negotiations carry on in Switzerland, Iran is fully behind the Houthi ousting of the pro-west government that had combatted Al-Qaeda forces in Yemen.
Abducting a cargo vessel is not just Iran thumbing its nose at the West. It is also a test to see how far the Islamic Republic can push the U.S. without any backlash.