Ship Arrest: The situation in the Middle East is getting worse

Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized a cargo ship linked to the business of an Israeli entrepreneur in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday. The Portuguese-flagged “MSC Aries” was boarded by a helicopter and driven into Iranian territorial waters, Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

MSC, on whose behalf the container ship is sailing, confirmed the seizure and said it was working with the relevant authorities. The aim was to return the ship and ensure the welfare of the 25 crew members. Shipping company Zodiac Maritime said MSC leased the “Aries” from its subsidiary Cordal Shipping. Zodiac's partner is Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz immediately accused the government in Tehran of piracy and called for international sanctions. The EU should classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a “terrorist organization,” he wrote on X (Twitter). Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari threatened that “Iran will face consequences if it decides to escalate this situation.”

Great Britain calls for scaling back expansion

British Defense Secretary Grand Shabbs called on Iran to release the container ship. The seizure was unacceptable and a flagrant violation of international law, Shabbs wrote in X.

The vessel and its crew must be released immediately and unconditionally. Given the growing tensions, Shapps said the UK was working with partners to prevent escalation in the region. Iran must immediately stop its destabilizing activities.

The United States has also strongly condemned this confiscation. Detaining a civilian vessel without provocation is a flagrant violation of international law, White House National Security Council spokesman Adrian Watson wrote in X. He called for his immediate release, calling it an act of theft. “We will work with our partners to hold Iran accountable for its actions.”

Biden returns to Washington soon

US President Joe Biden also responded, returning early to the White House from his weekend home on Saturday. “The President returns to the White House this afternoon to discuss events in the Middle East with his National Security Council,” the US government said.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday assured his Israeli counterpart Jove Gallant of America's “unwavering support”. In a phone call, the two discussed “serious regional threats,” US Defense Department spokesman Pat Ryder said in Washington. Austin made it clear that Israel can count on “the full support of the United States” against attacks by Iran and its proxies.

On Friday evening, Biden said he feared attacks by Iran were “imminent.” Biden reiterated that the United States “will support Israel, we will help defend Israel, and Iran will not win.” Asked about his message to Iran, he replied: The US has declared “don't do it” regarding a possible attack, to strengthen regional deterrence and increase armed forces to protect the US. .

Israel: Ready

Meanwhile, Israel is already preparing for an attack by Iran. From Sunday, “classroom activities, travel and excursions” were suspended in schools and other educational institutions. Regulations such as banning public gatherings in certain areas will also be in place for the next two days.

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Army said armed forces and fighter jets are on high alert. Defense Minister Galant said they were “committed to taking all necessary measures to protect the citizens of the State of Israel”. He also canceled a visit to Austria and Hungary scheduled for Sunday, which has been postponed “until further notice,” his office said Saturday evening. Katz will meet with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Chancellor Karl Nehhammer (both ÖVP) on Tuesday.

Israel has also “added new capabilities — on the ground, in the air, at sea, in our intelligence directorate, within the State of Israel and together with our allies led by the United States,” he said. The start of an interstate conflict between Iran and Israel would mean a serious escalation in the region.

A call to leave Iran

The foreign ministry in Vienna was replaced on Friday evening Travel advice for Iran and called on all Austrians to leave the country. There are warnings against travel to Iran, and security level six applies. Other countries have also tightened warnings against travel to Iran. Several airlines, including Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa, temporarily suspended flights to and from Tehran. Considering the threats, other airlines are avoiding airspace over parts of Iran and Israel.

Iran threatened retaliation

The attack on the cargo ship comes amid rising tensions between Israel and Iran. The Islamic Republic announced that it would retaliate against an airstrike on Israel's mission in Damascus. 16 people were killed in the attack in early April. Among the dead were two generals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and five other members of the elite force.

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On Tuesday, Iran's Revolutionary Guard's naval chief, Alireza Tangsiri, threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is critical for international commercial shipping. On Wednesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also threatened Israel with retaliation.

The strait is between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Tangsiri said Israel's presence in the UAE is seen as a threat. In 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic relations.

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