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Iran's Oil Tanker Leverage Game

That Missing Oil Tanker, And Iran’s Game of Leverage

We said the cat-and-mouse game over security in global oil shipping lanes would get worse; and it has. On Sunday, a UAE-based oil tanker (a Panamanian ship, MT Riah) was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz when it suddenly stopped transmitting. It was last seen in the Persian Gulf, off Iran’s Queshm Island. It hasn’t been heard from since. It disappeared from radar near a base of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

But what happens next depends entirely on interpretation. According to our sources, this is a tiny vessel. Tankers trackers will confirm that. That’s why it took from Sunday until Tuesday for this story to really become interesting to the media. The US wants it to be interesting. So does Iran. It’s bait for leverage to see how we’ll end this conflict by bringing Iran back to the nuclear table.

But the reality is that it’s a small tanker, that is only nominally UAE-based, with no UAE crew. And it’s really no mystery. The Iranian foreign minister has already said that they pulled the tanker into Iranian waters to provide it with assistance when it was having trouble--ostensibly. If they ‘hijacked’ it, it was just to ratchet up tensions and hope that it was big enough for anyone to care. In this atmosphere of fear around the Strait of Hormuz and all the pathways to it, anything works to that end.

The likelihood is that this…




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