The Washington Post | Jennifer Rubin | April 29, 2015 (UK Business Insider)
The New York Times reports: Iran on Tuesday took control of a Marshall Islands-flagged ship and its crew of 34 people after accusing the ship of trespassing on its territorial waters, American defense officials said, and the United States Navy sent a destroyer toward the Persian Gulf in response.
The report further suggests, “The episode could affect already fragile nuclear negotiations among the United States, five other world powers and Iran over efforts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.” I highly doubt it; the administration has not broken off talks because of Yemen or because Americans are being held hostage.
Further reporting from Bloomberg tells us: “When asked if his country would request that the U.S. rescue the cargo ship from Iran, Junior Aini, the charge d’affairs for the Marshall Islands Embassy in Washington, told us he was still awaiting guidance from his foreign ministry. But he also suggested that his country had no other recourse than to hope the U.S. responds.” These days that is a risky proposition.
So what does the administration do.
As the Bloomberg report points out, “The incident seems a direct response to President Barack Obama’s decision last week to send warships to the Arabian Sea.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said at the time that the warships were meant on ‘a very clear mission to ensure that shipping lanes remain open, to ensure there’s freedom of navigation through those critical waterways, and to help ensure maritime security.'”
Indeed the timing seems aimed at President Obama and Congress: “By taking a non-U.S. ship under questionable circumstances at a moment of high tension in the region, Iran has again put Washington in a tough spot. Given that the U.S. Senate is simultaneously debating its bill on oversight of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, the repercussions are going to spread far beyond the Strait of Hormuz.”
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams tells Right Turn, “Iran is throwing its weight around in a way that expresses contempt for the United States and for President Obama. They know full well that Congress and the nation are weighing the nuclear deal, but that doesn’t constrain them because they know the administration will do literally anything to keep the deal alive.”
If we do not act, we are, in effect, telling Iran and other rogue powers inclined to take similar aggressive actions that we will not lift a finger even on something as vital as freedom of the seas. “So even in these weeks when the deal hangs in the balance they charge Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post with espionage, and now they interfere with freedom of navigation in the Gulf,” Abrams observes.
“The U.S. looks like a helpless giant, which is precisely Iran’s goal. Our allies and friends in the region are cringing and so should Americans be. Is there any conduct at all that will awaken the administration to the nature and intentions of that vicious regime?” It’s becoming hard to think of one — or of any concession at the bargaining table we won’t make for the sake of a deal.