Iran seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on January 4, something they tried to blame on the tanker polluting Iranian waters. However, many suspected that the government was attempting to use the tanker and its crew as bargaining chips in upcoming negotiations with a South Korean envoy about $7 billion in Iranian assets frozen because of U.S. sanctions.
Tehran denied this, but still publicly commented on the money dispute and tried to justify the seizure by suggesting that South Korea was holding Iranian property hostage. Then, a state-run newspaper confirmed Iran’s true motives, but no one was really surprised.
After all, Iran had done basically the same thing last year with the British vessel Stena Impero and has a long history of taking vessels and personnel hostage, dating back to the U.S. embassy siege in 1979, which the Iranian government actually celebrates every year.
Not to mention the dozens of foreign or dual nationals held in Iran’s prisons as leverage, including Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali, who is under imminent threat of execution and has had hardly any contact with his family since November.
Given all this, are the crew of the South Korean Hankuk Chemi in danger? Well, Iran is unlikely to want an international incident, but then we would have never expected that they’d risk plotting a terrorist attack on European soil and yet an Iranian diplomat was put on trial for that last month.
Assadollah Assadi is accused by European prosecutors of trying to bomb the Resistance rally in Paris in June 2018, which was attended by 100,000 people. While Europe tends to use an appeasement strategy, they have put Assadi and his accomplices on trial and this firm policy are probably the reason that Djalali is still alive.
The Belgian parliament threatened to end all ties with Iran if Djalali was executed. While Sweden is set to begin the trial of Hamid Nouri, accused of taking a major role in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
“This latest move appears to be a sign that growing numbers of European policymakers are not only willing to adopt an assertive posture with the Islamic Republic but also willing to go on the offensive in their fight against the regime’s tactics of intimidating both foreign and domestic voices into silence,” wrote the Iranian Resistance.
“No doubt those policymakers are beginning to recognize that that silence has always proven to be counterproductive in the past, and has only reinforced Tehran’s every impulse toward malign activity,” the NCRI added.