As Tensions Worsen, Iran and Britain Prepare to Act, or React

Iran warns against further escalation, as British officials debate next move

Months of mounting tensions between Iran and the West have centered on tit-for-tat measures and official statements. Everyone says they don’t want the situation to worsen, then something else happens, and it worsens.

Starting with non-distinct US allegations about Iran doing something, the situation is now increasingly about oil tankers. At the start of July, British Marines captured Iran’s Grace 1 tanker, full of oil.. Britain accused the tanker of going to Syria, saying it would violate the US ban on Iran selling oil, and the EU ban on Syria buying oil.

Iran had been demanding the ship’s release, and after a couple of weeks of that going nowhere, Iran captured a British-flagged tanker late last week. Iranian officials say it was a “reciprocal” move, and that the British ship broke maritime rules.

But that still leaves both Iran and the UK at odds with one another, and both waiting to see who moves never, and what they’ll do in response. British officials are expected to announce some response on Monday, but over the weekend have been mum on what that looks like.

That likely reflects concerns about making missteps and making things even worse. Iran seems quite aware of that, and their UK envoy warned Britain to avoid further escalation, while saying Iran remains “ready for any scenario.”

British officials have emphasized their readiness too, but once again don’t seem to be sure what they’re readying for, or even whether they’re readying to act against Iran, or react if Iran does something else.

As far as it goes, the expectation on both sides is whatever is coming, warnings aside, will be even worse. US officials see to be quite comfortable with the situation continuing to spiral as well, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he sees no reason to think Iran will choose the path of a “normal nation.” Pompeo has been leading the US march to escalate with Iran for months, and is seen as a major advocate of war.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of