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Iran Deal
Maersk Tigris Released, Tensions Ease

To the relief of family, friends, and U.S. negotiators, Iran has released the container ship Maersk Tigris and its 24-person crew, announcing today that the ship had left its territorial waters. The BBC:

Permission for the release of the ship was given after the Iranian authorities received guarantees “for the enforcement of the judicial decision”, the country’s Ports and Shipping Organisation said.

Rickmers [Shipmanagement] said in a statement that Maersk had “put up a security in relation to the underlying court case”.

It’s not clear, however, exactly how much quid pro quo backroom dealing between the United States and Iran went on in parallel with the negotiations over payments. The New York Times:

In Washington, Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Navy warships that had been assigned to escort American and British vessels through the strait, a precaution after the seizure of the Maersk Tigris, which is registered in the Marshall Islands, were no longer doing so.

The apparent stand-down in the strait, where American and Iranian forces once battled each other in the 1980s, appeared to reflect efforts by both sides not to allow any show of military bravado to complicate and possibly sabotage multilateral diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement on Iran’s contentious nuclear program.

While it’s good that this standoff was resolved diplomatically and without the loss of life, what’s critical is how this episode was read in Iran. If the leadership in Tehran, caught flat-footed by some rogue Revolutionary Guard elements who acted on their own initiative on the Tigris, was looking for a way out of the mess, then this may all have played out more or less as the Times is framing it—as a mutual climb-down. But if instead the White House offered to stand down in exchange for the release of the Tigris, as part of a broader de-escalation in pursuit of a positive sum nuclear deal—well, let’s just say that a few interesting weeks are likely ahead of us, both in the ongoing negotiations, as well as the simmering regional crises in Yemen, Syria and Iraq where Iran is more than capable of stirring the pot.

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  • Josephbleau

    Great news, the Iranian Navy fights piracy by capturing ships and demanding “security payments” to release them. Is there any honesty in the world today?

    • Josephbleau

      I am also reassured that a Colonel is the spokesman on a Naval issue. Is he/she a Marine with expertise on amphibious assault?

      • Corlyss

        What? You want an Admiral to read the official Pentagon position to DoD reporters? Hell, a fresh-hire civilian secretary from Pulic Affairs who knows nothing about anything could do it. The rank or service of the person in Public Affairs who relates the official Pentagon position to the press corps is not relevant. Those folks are public relations people.

  • Corlyss

    “it’s good that this standoff was resolved diplomatically and without the loss of life”
    There was a principle to be upheld, and saved lives are not always the best way to measure a win for the good guys. As usual, Doofus bargained away US capacity to project force for a mess of Iranian pie-crust promises. Guarantee that more than that handful will be lost recovering our ability to project power when push comes to shove.

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