Britain must play a leading role in defending Europe from Iranian interference

For many in the West it’s hard to credit that Iran was responsible for the recent incident in the Gulf in which a British oil tanker struck by a drone. The unprovoked attack on the vessel, which resulted in the death of one British seaman, and his Romanian colleague, is seen by many as tantamount to an act of war.

However, this was not the first time that Iran has acted aggressively towards civilian ships in the region. In 2019 another British vessel, the Stena Impero, was seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as it passed through the Straits of Hormuz. The tanker was held off the coast, with the crew in effect being held hostage by the regime. It is believed that the Iranian regime managed to coax the ship off course and into their territorial waters using a new technique called ‘spoofing’, whereby a ship’s navigational systems are tricked into thinking that they are on the correct course, when in reality they are being lured towards the shore like a digital siren.

Over the last few years, Iran has increasingly asserting its dominance in the region, especially when it comes to the vital maritime route through the Straits of Hormuz. The straits are a key navigational route for energy exports from the Middle East, with some 40% of the world’s oil and gas coming from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. 

Whilst the UK is less dependent on Middle Eastern oil than Europe – we get 3% of our oil from the region compared to the EU’s 20% – there’s every chance we may come to depend on it more if Russia were to constrain its supply of oil and gas. In that far from implausible scenario, Iran could be in a position to hobble the European economy. 

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