The U.S. is responsible for security of Marshall Islands. The Straits of Hormuz are covered under freedom of the seas. This is a provocation! ~ PDC
Iran seizes commercial ship, U.S. forces respond
Iran Revolutionary Guard patrol boats fired shots at a commercial cargo ship and then intercepted the vessel, the M/V Maersk Tigris, which was crossing the Strait of Hormuz Tuesday morning, according to a senior U.S. military official.
Despite reports in some media, there are no Americans on board, the official said.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it was “inappropriate” for the Iranians to fire the warning shot. The U.S. Navy has dispatched one maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe and monitor the situation, Warren told reporters.
The ship, a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, was transiting the Strait into the Persian Gulf on an internationally recognized maritime route when the the Iranian military contacted the vessel and directed the ship master to “divert further into Iranian waters,” according to Warren.
“The master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris,” said Warren, referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. “The master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters in the vicinity of Larak Island.”
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After receiving a distress signal from the cargo ship, Naval Forces Central Command dispatched the destroyer Farragut to proceed at best speed to the location of the Maersk and has sent a single maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the situation, Warren said. He did not clarify what that aircraft was, but the Navy counts both the P-3 and P-8 under that designation.
Warren said that it is “unlikely” Farragut would enter Iranian territory.
He added that there were no American citizens onboard the vessel, which has a crew of about 30.
Warren said that at first glance the situation “seems to be provocative” on the part of the Iranian ships, but noted that there are still gaps of information about the initial incident.
“It is inappropriate” on the part of the Iranian forces, he added.
The past week has seen a spike in tensions between the two countries after US Navy ships began shadowing a convoy of Iranian cargo ships that the Pentagon believed may be carrying weapons to aid militant forces in Yemen.
That situation dispersed last week when the Iranian convoy turned away from Yemen, but no doubt remains fresh in the minds of both nations.
Asked if the seizure of the Maersk was retaliation for last week’s standoff, Warren said there was “no way to know” at this time.
Craig Allen, a professor at the University of Washington with an expertise in maritime law, called Iran’s actions “highly unusual.”
“Iran often beats its chest about shutting down this strait as a countermeasure to Western aggression, but it’s all been talk up to this point,” Allen said. “Actually pulling a commercial vessel out and pulling it into an Iranian port, I’m shocked.”
Allen explained that the Strait of Hormuz operates under the law of transit passage as laid out by a 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea. Although neither the US nor Iran signed that convention, the nations have treated the rules of navigation transit as legally binding.
The rules of transit passage guarantees any vessel the right to use the strait with only “very limited” restrictions, Allen said. Those restrictions include if the ship is not proceeding without delay through the strait or is excessively polluting.
Those rules seem to be broad enough that Iran could claim a violation —
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