On July 22, 2019, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, made a surprise visit to the Khatam-al Anbia military headquarters. The Iranian media linked the visit to “the security situation in our region.”1
According to Tasnim, the news agency affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Shamkhani met with Gen. Gholam Ali Rashid, commander of the headquarters, to discuss “the security situation, the dangers [to Iran], and the degree of preparedness of [Iran’s] armed forces.”
The agency quoted the headquarters commander about “aspects of defensive capability and the potential for an attack on Iran’s part.” Tansim added the commander’s warning about “Iran’s surprise capabilities, which the enemies have so far not taken into account.” According to Gen. Rashid, “The cost of aggression against Iran will be higher than what potential aggressors may think.”2, 3
Gen. Shamkhani’s surprise visit to the main headquarters of Iran’s aerial defense came on the day Britain was supposed to announce a set of measures against Iran in response to Iranian commando forces’ takeover of the British tanker Stena Impero on July 19, 2019.
According to Britain’s deputy prime minister, London is consulting with its allies and considering a range of options toward Iran.
The Tanker Skirmishes
Meanwhile, Iran is again emphasizing that it was Britain that initiated the recent tension when its forces detained Grace 1, a giant tanker with more than two million barrels of Iranian oil in Gibraltar on July 4, 2019. The ship was seized because of an alleged breach of EU sanctions against Syria. Iran hoped the tanker would be released, but on Friday a Gibraltar court extended its detainment for another month. The Iranian commandos’ July 19 takeover of the British tanker occurred several hours after the Gibraltar court’s ruling was announced. On Sunday, the Guardian wrote that the Iranian move was a retaliation for Britain’s action.
The IRGC claimed that the British tanker was seized because it had violated maritime law and its behavior had endangered the peace of the region. However, a senior representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor in chief of the Keyhan newspaper, wrote that the British tanker was commandeered in retribution for the detained tanker in Gibraltar and that any other reason was a falsehood. In an article on July 21, Shariatmadari recommended that the Iranian regime announce the seizure of the tanker from a position of strength so that in the future enemies would think twice before taking similar steps.5
One hundred sixty members of the Iranian parliament joined the Guardian Council of the Constitution in thanking the IRGC for seizing the tanker of “the evil British.” The announcements also note that the seizure occurred after Khamenei expressed confidence last week that “young believers within the republic will not sit on their hands in the face of the satanic act by Britain,” which detained the tanker with its Iranian oil (the tanker does not belong to Iran though it carries its oil).
On the other hand, the July 21, 2019 statement about the tanker episodes by Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh was seen as expressing dissatisfaction over the fact that his country had taken hold of a British tanker in retribution for the continued detainment of the tanker in Gibraltar. Zangeneh said that, at a time when Iran’s attempts to sell oil were encountering many difficulties because of the American sanctions, the rise in oil prices resulting from the tanker war would not affect Iran’s profits. He added that entanglement in this affair would further damage his country’s efforts to find potential buyers for its oil.6
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