KT Edit: Don't fall for Iran's fear tactics

It is no secret that Iran is intent on interrupting shipping in the Arabian Gulf.
The question is how far will it go in its efforts to sow fear into mariners and the owners of vessels transiting the Strait of Hormuz through which 20 per cent of the world's oil flows to energy-starved nations in Asia and beyond. Has the regime crossed a red line with its recent attacks and seizures of vessels from May? On Sunday, the regime's navy arrested another ship for alleged violations.
Tehran often cooks up violations and claims that the ships it had seized had strayed into Iranian waters while maritime agencies and the US say the incidents had occurred in international waters. Going by past behaviour and rhetoric it is clear that the regime is ramping up tensions as US sanctions make it hard to run the economy. The country has become a searing rod for diplomacy that no other nation is willing to do business with as they fear they too will be singed if they come into contact with the regime. Ordinary Iranians are suffering as the regime tightens its grip while it attempts to provoke the international community. Domestically, dissent is quelled and moderates have been shown the door. The US says it is open to new nuclear talks while Europe is still keen to maintain ties with Tehran but is wary of US President Donald Trump's wrath. It's a classic no-win situation with all sides showing no inclination to relent.
A coalition of Arab and Western navies also appears to be having teething problems with Germany being cool to the proposal. The defunct nuclear agreement still rankles Europe that wants both Iran and the US to return to the agreement. For Tehran, it's the economy and the regime realises that time is running out. Hence it wants to pressure the West to come to the negotiating table even if it means seizing ships and causing damage to others. 'If we can't ply oil through the Arabian Gulf, so can't you,' is the message the Iranians are seeking to send out, which is plain foolhardy. These actions also show the regime's desperation. It believes its bargaining powers will increase but the reverse could happen if the situation spirals into military action from the US.
Iran doesn't stand a chance in the event of a conflict but fear is a weapon in its armoury that it is willing to use against shipping in the region. If world powers fail to see through Iran's game, they will fall into a trap of their own making. A naval coalition to escort commercial ships is the need of the hour. The sooner they set aside their differences and come up with a game plan to protect maritime commerce in the Gulf, the better it will be for the overall security of the region.




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