Oil tankers pass through Strait of Hormuz
Oil tankers pass through Strait of HormuzReuters
Iran is slowly taking off its gloves and has dropped its mask in the widening confrontation with Western countries and Israel.

After the United Kingdom (UK) seized an Iranian tanker with oil bound for Syria on July 4, the Iranians embarked on a piracy campaign against British and other vessels in the Persian Gulf.

The tanker, Grace 1, was carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil when it was detained by British Marines and will stay in Gibraltar for another month, a court in the British colony decided last Friday.

Iran called the British action an “act of piracy” and again threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz which is the world’s single most important oil passageway.

Last week, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) made good on its promise to seize British ships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz and on Thursday committed its first act of piracy when it forced the small Panamanian-flagged United Arab Emirates tanker Riah into Iranian territorial waters.

Iran claimed the Riah was smuggling fuel.

That incident followed an earlier attempt to seize the British tanker Heritage on July 11 when a Royal Navy warship foiled an attempt by IRGC speedboats to block the passage of the ship through the Strait of Hormuz.

On Friday last week, the IRGC again seized two ships in the Strait of Hormuz and used a helicopter to take over control of the UK-owned tanker Steno Impero, while speedboats were used to board the Liberian-registered tanker Mesdar.

The Mesdar tanker was later released and continued its voyage, Norbulk Shipping, the British operator of the vessel, reported later on Friday.

The Iranians lied repeatedly to justify their acts of piracy in the Strait of Hormuz. For example, they claimed they responded to a distress call or in the case of the Steno Impero claimed the vessel had collided with an Iranian fishing boat, while video evidence made clear there was no such incident.

A video released by the IRGC clearly showed speedboats full of IRGC members surrounding the tanker while masked men were sliding down a rope from a helicopter hovering over the deck of the Steno Impero.

The British government reacted to the Iranian provocation by calling the seizure of the Steno Impero “a hostile act” which would have “serious consequences,” but stopped short of announcing it would at least re-introduce sanctions against Iran.

Iran, on the other hand, accused “domestic political forces” in the United Kingdom of stirring-up “existing tension” between the two countries and said it was ready “for different scenarios.”

"U.K. government should contain those domestic political forces who want to escalate existing tension between Iran and the U.K. well beyond the issue of ships. This is quite dangerous and unwise at a sensitive time in the region," Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s envoy to Britain, tweeted on Friday.

Instead of standing tall against Iran, the British government later made clear it wanted to “de-escalate” the crisis and admitted it was in a “tit for tat situation.”

“It’s a typical Iran-West story where Iran blusters and threatens and the Western powers end up begging Iran to end the standoff while everyone pretends they saved face, but clearly, Iran looks like it came off better,” wrote Jerusalem Post analyst Seth Franzman.

Iran has put the West on the defensive and shows it is able to continue to carry out operations in the Gulf as it pleases. The Islamic Republic is aware that Western countries are wary of new interventions in the Middle East, according to Franzman.

He could be right.

Until now both the US and Britain have limited themselves to shooting down drones and aiming guns at IRGC speedboats which were dangerously close to their warships in the Persian Gulf while the Trump Administration shows no signs of a serious military built-up to confront Iran.

The announcement that another 500 American soldiers will be deployed in Saudi Arabia for the first time since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 cannot be seen as a preparation for a large military action against Iran.

Consequently, the only country in the world using military force to thwart the Iranian imperialistic aspirations in the Middle East is Israel.

The Israeli military as well as the spy agency Mossad are constantly carrying out daring missions to stop the Iranian take-over of the Middle East and to prevent Iran from encircling the Jewish state.

According to Iranian and Arab media, the Israeli air-force just carried out a new raid against the Quds Force of the IRGC and its Iraqi proxy Hashd al-Shaabi.

Fars News, an IRGC affiliated news outlet in Iran reported that a base in use by the Quds Force and Hash al-Shaabi militias near Amerli in northern Iraq was bombed by three Israeli Harop UAV loitering missiles on Friday.

The alleged Israeli raid came after the Arab outlet al-Arabiyareported that the Shia Al-Shuhada militia of Hash al-Shaabi had received new Iranian ballistic missiles.

At the same time, reports came in that Hezbollah is moving forces in both Lebanon and Syria to areas along the Israeli border.

The Iranian-founded and sponsored Lebanese terror group says it will open two fronts against Israel whenever Iran is directly targeted by the US and its allies.

“If any missile hits Iran, it will be treated like Israel did it,” a Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon toldThe Daily Beast in the US, adding that there are “no more red lines” (by the Assad regime) for military action from the Syrian Golan Heights against Israel and that it will be a war never seen before in the history of Israel.

"The sanctions (on Iran and Hezbollah) now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front,” the commander said adding that this time around Hezbollah will “fire the first shot.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, meanwhile, upped his rhetoric against Israel and said “the occupying Zionists are the most irrational creatures on the earth, and do not understand anything other than the discourse of resistance.”

The Hezbollah boss claimed he “bears no grudge against Jews” but said “the Zionists are the root cause of corruption and insecurity in the region.”

Nasrallah made his comments as a high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran for talks with the Iranian regime.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh didn’t elaborate on the content of the talks, but said “the visit will go on for a few days. “

“We’re expecting important results,” Haniyeh, furthermore, said in an apparent reference to the Iranian aid to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.