Iran fires on cargo ship while Obama assures Gulf allies he has their backs

I would say that Iran has impeccable timing.

No sooner had President Obama assured our Gulf allies of the US "iron-clad" committment to the security of Gulf States, than an Iranian patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged cargo vessel.

Associated Press:

An Iranian naval patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged commercial ship in the Persian Gulf on Thursday in an apparent attempt to disable it over a financial dispute over damage to an Iranian oil platform, a U.S. official said.

The Iranians initially fired warning shots Thursday after the MT Alpine Eternity refused to move into Iranian waters. The incident took place a bit south of the island of Abu Musa just inside the Gulf, according to the U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss details by name. The official said the U.S. military was not involved in the incident.

After the warning shots were fired the ship began heading toward territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, and the Iranians then opened up with machine gun fire, according to the U.S. official. The official said early reports indicated no one aboard the ship was injured.

In response to a call for help from the Alpine Eternity, the UAE coast guard responded and the Iranian patrol vessels left the area.

Officials at Transpetrol, the Singapore-flagged ship's manager, who were reached by telephone by The Associated Press, said they had no immediate information. The company lists offices in Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and Bermuda.

"We're certainly concerned about anything that interferes with freedom of navigation in international waters and the free flow of commerce," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said, noting that no Americans or US ships were involved.

Saudi Arabia was far stronger in its condemnation. "The Iranians should not be allowed to get away with it," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at Camp David, Maryland, where he attended a security summit between the U.S. and Arab countries. "For whatever reason they're doing it, it's got to stop."

The U.S. official said the Alpine Eternity is involved in a financial dispute with Tehran. The Alpine Eternity on March 22 accidentally struck an Iranian oil platform, damaging it. The ship, which also was damaged in the accident, went into port for repairs, and during that period the Iranians informed the shipping company that it must pay for damage to the oil platform.

Like any efficient organized crime syndicate, the Iranians have chosen to settle their financial disputes with guns. "Nice ship you have therer. Be a shame to sink it."

Recall that Iran also fired on a Marshal Island-flagged ship last month and forced it to dock in an Iranian port. The Alpine Enternity was apparently headed for the same fate until the UAE coast guard stepped in to stop them.

Meanwhile, Obama is urging the Gulf states to remain calm. All is well:

President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to back Gulf allies against any "external attack," seeking to reassure them of Washington's iron-clad commitment to their security amid Arab anxiety over U.S.-led efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

Hosting the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for a rare summit at Camp David, Obama pledged that the United States would consider using military force to defend them and would also help counter Iran's "destabilizing activities in the region."

"I am reaffirming our iron-clad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners," Obama told a closing news conference at the presidential retreat outside Washington.

Obama stopped short of offering a formal defense treaty that some Gulf countries had sought. Instead he announced more modest measures, including integrating ballistic missile defense systems, beefing up cyber and maritime security, streamlining weapons sales and increasing joint military exercises.

The United States and five other world powers are seeking to reach a final deal with Iranon curbing its nuclear program by a June 30 deadline. The GCC agreed in a joint communique that a "comprehensive, verifiable" accord with Tehran would be in their security interests.

But Obama did not go as far as saying the Sunni Arab states had committed to backing the outcome of the talks with Iran, their Shi'ite arch-rival. The Saudi foreign minister made clear, in fact, that his government was withholding judgment for now.

Obama also sought to allay Gulf Arab concerns that the potential lifting of international sanctions on Tehran would embolden it to fuel more sectarian strife in the region.

Lifting sanctions will free up tens of billions of dollars for Iran to make mischief throughout the region, so it's no wonder the Gulf states are extremely nervous about Obama's dealings with Tehran.

They don't believe Iran is in a box. They don't believe Washington's assurances of support. This will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race in the region, with the Saudis having enough cash to buy a few weapons if they so choose. 

With only a few heads of state attending the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, the Gulf states are showing what they think of Obama's outreach to Iran; they are moving away from Washington as they seek other partners to help them defend themselves from the fanatics in Tehran.

I would say that Iran has impeccable timing.

No sooner had President Obama assured our Gulf allies of the US "iron-clad" committment to the security of Gulf States, than an Iranian patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged cargo vessel.

Associated Press:

An Iranian naval patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged commercial ship in the Persian Gulf on Thursday in an apparent attempt to disable it over a financial dispute over damage to an Iranian oil platform, a U.S. official said.

The Iranians initially fired warning shots Thursday after the MT Alpine Eternity refused to move into Iranian waters. The incident took place a bit south of the island of Abu Musa just inside the Gulf, according to the U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss details by name. The official said the U.S. military was not involved in the incident.

After the warning shots were fired the ship began heading toward territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, and the Iranians then opened up with machine gun fire, according to the U.S. official. The official said early reports indicated no one aboard the ship was injured.

In response to a call for help from the Alpine Eternity, the UAE coast guard responded and the Iranian patrol vessels left the area.

Officials at Transpetrol, the Singapore-flagged ship's manager, who were reached by telephone by The Associated Press, said they had no immediate information. The company lists offices in Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and Bermuda.

"We're certainly concerned about anything that interferes with freedom of navigation in international waters and the free flow of commerce," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said, noting that no Americans or US ships were involved.

Saudi Arabia was far stronger in its condemnation. "The Iranians should not be allowed to get away with it," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at Camp David, Maryland, where he attended a security summit between the U.S. and Arab countries. "For whatever reason they're doing it, it's got to stop."

The U.S. official said the Alpine Eternity is involved in a financial dispute with Tehran. The Alpine Eternity on March 22 accidentally struck an Iranian oil platform, damaging it. The ship, which also was damaged in the accident, went into port for repairs, and during that period the Iranians informed the shipping company that it must pay for damage to the oil platform.

Like any efficient organized crime syndicate, the Iranians have chosen to settle their financial disputes with guns. "Nice ship you have therer. Be a shame to sink it."

Recall that Iran also fired on a Marshal Island-flagged ship last month and forced it to dock in an Iranian port. The Alpine Enternity was apparently headed for the same fate until the UAE coast guard stepped in to stop them.

Meanwhile, Obama is urging the Gulf states to remain calm. All is well:

President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to back Gulf allies against any "external attack," seeking to reassure them of Washington's iron-clad commitment to their security amid Arab anxiety over U.S.-led efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

Hosting the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for a rare summit at Camp David, Obama pledged that the United States would consider using military force to defend them and would also help counter Iran's "destabilizing activities in the region."

"I am reaffirming our iron-clad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners," Obama told a closing news conference at the presidential retreat outside Washington.

Obama stopped short of offering a formal defense treaty that some Gulf countries had sought. Instead he announced more modest measures, including integrating ballistic missile defense systems, beefing up cyber and maritime security, streamlining weapons sales and increasing joint military exercises.

The United States and five other world powers are seeking to reach a final deal with Iranon curbing its nuclear program by a June 30 deadline. The GCC agreed in a joint communique that a "comprehensive, verifiable" accord with Tehran would be in their security interests.

But Obama did not go as far as saying the Sunni Arab states had committed to backing the outcome of the talks with Iran, their Shi'ite arch-rival. The Saudi foreign minister made clear, in fact, that his government was withholding judgment for now.

Obama also sought to allay Gulf Arab concerns that the potential lifting of international sanctions on Tehran would embolden it to fuel more sectarian strife in the region.

Lifting sanctions will free up tens of billions of dollars for Iran to make mischief throughout the region, so it's no wonder the Gulf states are extremely nervous about Obama's dealings with Tehran.

They don't believe Iran is in a box. They don't believe Washington's assurances of support. This will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race in the region, with the Saudis having enough cash to buy a few weapons if they so choose. 

With only a few heads of state attending the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, the Gulf states are showing what they think of Obama's outreach to Iran; they are moving away from Washington as they seek other partners to help them defend themselves from the fanatics in Tehran.