Iran simply won’t let itself be hemmed in by the U.S. and UK

by Vijay Prashad
ul 30, 2019

In late May, the shipping authorities in Panama deregistered Grace 1, an oil tanker carrying two million barrels of Iranian crude oil around the coastline of Africa and into the Mediterranean Sea. Having lost its Panamanian flag, the ship now had to carry an Iranian one.

It was this deregistration that began a serious provocation. Off the coast of Gibraltar, British Royal Marines seized and impounded Grace 1. The British said that the ship was going toward Syria, a breach of European Union sanctions. Iran denied this.

Under pressure from the United States, Panama has removed its flag from 59 vessels that are either linked to Iran or Syria. A ship without an international flag cannot buy insurance, which means that it has to almost instantly take on a different flag.

The United States has been pressuring countries such as Sierra Leone and Togo to pressure them not to put their flags on vessels that are part of Iran’s oil export trade. Carrying an Iranian flag does not allow ships easy access to insurance; the United States has pressured insurance companies to deny insurance to these ships.