When Iran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero the Royal Navy warship was 16 minutes away which may as well have been decades.
The British defense minister is now having to explain that it is simply not possible to escort each and every British commercial ship through the Strait — the Royal Navy can’t deploy anywhere the number of vessels that would take.
Instead London has advised British shipping to “stay out of the area for an interim period”.
There are more British ships moving through the Strait than the Royal Navy can protect, if the Iranians wants to seize them. London is now hoping many of them will stay away.
If that happens, then its Navy can perhaps escort the smaller number of tankers that nonetheless want to make the trip, else they will have to start considering convoys. Or perhaps the shipping companies will brave the trip anyway calculating that Iran feels it has retaliated enough for now and won’t seek to escalate further. (Which I think is the correct calculation for now.)
Whichever is the case, one thing is certain. The servility of the British government to Imperial agendas and the personal ambition of Jeremy Hunt have just made life a lot more complicated for British commercial ships sailing past Iran, and also exposed the miltary weakness of Britain when it has to exercize power far from its shores on its own.
What may happen however is that the Americans seize on the opportunity to take the escort job for themselves — but it is not certain that they will, and if they do it will only lead to more uncertainty and tension.
In any case, a debacle for London in an emberassing overreach the consequences of which any serious statesman should have been able to predict.
Yet Hunt continues to blather about a “robust reaction” that “WILL ensure the safety” of British safety, even as his fellow defense minister explains that is not possible:
2/2 As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 20, 2019