London-based maritime security firm, Dryad Global, has expressed deep unease at yesterday’s tweet by President Trump which said: “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
Dryad believes that the message, which was devoid of context or explanation, was destabilising to the security situation and “will likely heighten the risk of miscalculation in the region”. The tweet was sent a week after reports of naval units controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) harassing US Navy vessels in the North Arabian Sea, amongst wider reporting of Iranian Naval and IRGC naval units interacting with commercial vessels throughout the region.
According to the security firm’s intelligence, there have been four recorded incidents of Iranian Naval and IRGC interference against US Naval and commercial vessels so far this year. However, since interaction by the Iranians with international naval patrols and commercial shipping are common, under-reporting could mean that the real number is significantly higher.
Dryad expressed disquiet that the 240-character tweet gave no definition of “harassment” which, it said, could be a deliberate attempt to create a sense of unpredictability. Furthermore, the reference to “our ships” is not qualified in any way.
The security firm said: “Without question [it] covers US Naval vessels and logically extends to US-flagged vessels. Questions remain whether the statement also refers to ships carrying US-bound cargo, US crews, US Marshall Island-flagged vessels, or indeed US coalition partner states.”
The tweet could well be part of the Trump administration’s strategy to impact the oil price, Dryad said. The US benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate, crashed to minus $40 early this week, with potentially devastating implications for the US shale industry. However, a single tweet alone is unlikely to return oil to a sustained price where US shale can compete, the security firm opined.
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