It All Depends on the Meaning of “Full Responsibility”

 

maersktigrisTwo days ago, in the Strait of Hormuz–an internationally recognized shipping lane–the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fired shots across the bow of the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Maersk Tigris, then seized the vessel. They are holding the ship and the 24 crew members.

According to the Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News, Pentagon lawyers have determined the United States “has no obligation to come to the defense of a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel at sea.”

Here’s the text of the Compact of Free Association, as amended and signed in 2003, between the the United States and the Marshall Islands.

How do you interpret these words? Marshall Islands

There are 66 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Obama has already made clear he does not believe in defense of allies. If I were Russia, I’d invade the Baltics now.

    • #1
  2. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I was gone all day without media. When I came home around 7pm, I went online to find out what was happening with the ship. Finding news stories was a hunt. It was like I had dreamed the whole incident.

    What on earth is happening? How can the Navy accept doing nothing?

    Russians are sneaking around Sweden and Finland, planes are intercepted in US and Canadian airspace…

    I’m no military expert, but we’re in for some serious trouble.

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    Mama Toad:I was gone all day without media. When I came home around 7pm, I went online to find out what was happening with the ship. Finding news stories was a hunt. It was like I had dreamed the whole incident.

    The lack of media coverage is bizarre. You’d think our media was completely government-controlled.

    • #3
  4. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    You missed the key clause of (b)(1): “as the United States and its people are defended.” As the Obama administration finds “defense” of the United States and its people to be completely optional …

    • #4
  5. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    TG:You missed the key clause of (b)(1):“as the United States and its people are defended.”As the Obama administration finds “defense” of the United States and its people to be completely optional …

    I do feel that way, seeing this.

    • #5
  6. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Claire Berlinski:

    Mama Toad:I was gone all day without media. When I came home around 7pm, I went online to find out what was happening with the ship. Finding news stories was a hunt. It was like I had dreamed the whole incident.

    The lack of media coverage is bizarre. You’d think our media was completely government-controlled.

    The weirdest thing was Drudge.

    Tuesday it was his lead story.

    Wednesday night it was gone. Off the page, not just demoted to the bottom. Surreal.

    • #6
  7. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Don’t antagonize the pirates!

    • #7
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    iWe:Don’t antagonize the pirates!

    Blow them up! Shores of Tripoli and all that

    • #8
  9. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Claire Berlinski:

    TG:You missed the key clause of (b)(1):“as the United States and its people are defended.”As the Obama administration finds “defense” of the United States and its people to be completely optional …

    I do feel that way, seeing this.

    You should seeing how the Obama administration missed the boat in Yemen. Other countries do NEO for their citizens, just not the US. Same thing almost happened in Libya – except the State Department was shamed into ginning up a ship to pull them out – might be the only good thing the Clinton State Department did.

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    I understand a cautious response: there’s a reasonable case for not immediately blowing things up in what’s already a volatile region. I don’t understand how, with a straight face, Pentagon lawyers can say we have “no obligation.”

    That’s not complex, arcane legal language. It’s absolutely clear.

    • #10
  11. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Claire Berlinski:I understand a cautious response: there’s a reasonable case for not immediately blowing things up in what’s already a volatile region. I don’t understand how, with a straight face, Pentagon lawyers can say we have “no obligation.”

    That’s not complex, arcane legal language. It’s absolutely clear.

    They could be saying that since, policy at the Pentagon is controlled by the Commander in Chief, they – the Pentagon – have no obligation until the CIC tells them they do.

    • #11
  12. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    According to Stars and Stripes, the US patrolling the straits “could raise tension” as the US and Iran continue “negotiating” (my scare quotes, not theirs).

    Like them capturing a cargo ship sailing in international waters didn’t do that already.

    Deep, deep doo-doo…

    • #12
  13. Boisfeuras Inactive
    Boisfeuras
    @Boisfeuras

    It is very odd – particularly as I know from my day job, (I’m a maritime lawyer) that OFAC regards shipowners registered in the Marshall Islands as being obliged to comply with US sanctions against Iran.

    So you’re subject to the full weight of US penalties if you trade with Iran, but if your ship is seized by the Iranians, you’re on your own…

    • #13
  14. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    Boisfeuras:It is very odd – particularly as I know from my day job, (I’m a maritime lawyer) that OFAC regards shipowners registered in the Marshall Islands as being obliged to comply with US sanctions against Iran.

    So you’re subject to the full weight of US penalties if you trade with Iran, but if your ship is seized by the Iranians, you’re on your own…

    I’d be curious about a maritime lawyer’s views of this. Have you ever heard of a similar case involving any analogous defense relationship?

    • #14
  15. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    On the assumption we’re not missing something here — and I don’t see how we could be — this is really dangerous. Once again, our promises to defend allies (even little tiny ones) is shown to be absolutely worthless.

    Worse than that, it seems plausible that the Tigris was targeted because it flies the flag of a US protectorate and the Iranians wanted to take us down a notch again.

    • #15
  16. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:On the assumption we’re not missing something here — and I don’t see how we could be — this is really dangerous. Once again, our promises to defend allies (even little tiny ones) is shown to be absolutely worthless.

    Worse than that, it seems plausible that the Tigris was targeted because it flies the flag of a US protectorate and the Iranians wanted to take us down a notch again.

    The lack of news coverage is especially alarming. The Fourth Estate has just completely checked out.

    • #16
  17. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Am I the only one who thinks the name may be symbolically connected to the seizure? After all the Tigris is one of the two great rivers of Iraq.

    • #17
  18. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    (fyi, the like button is weird again… I can like my own comments and unlike them, but my tablet multiple inadvertent taps just add up… sorry …)

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    And how’s this for weird: This was what the Pentagon said on Tuesday:

    “The United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters in or relating to the Republic of Marshall Islands, to include matters relating to vessels flying the Marshallese flag,” read a Tuesday statement from the Pentagon.

    • #19
  20. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    In addition to hating America, its traditions, and a majority of it’s people, the low-rent Bolshevik currently occupying the White House also hates America’s allies. Had Republican leaders any courage, they would impeach him forthwith.

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    And Marie Harf repeated it, yesterday:

    State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States had “full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters” related to the Marshall Islands, including ships flying their flag.

    So what on earth is going on? Did CBS misunderstand? Has anyone seen that reported anywhere else?

    • #21
  22. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    More importantly, where is Congress? The President is abrogating a treaty that body ratified. This isn’t just strategically questionable, it’s legally questionable too.

    • #22
  23. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Yeah I’m with Tom here.  Another “fundamental transformation” of America?  It seems pretty obvious from all their previous negotiations with Iran that NOTHING will stand in the way of the precious “deal”, including our own actual security.

    I was under the impression that when a ship flies a country’s flag it is in essence an extension of that country.  Maybe we got all bent out of shape before the War of 1812 over British impressment of American sailors from their ships for nothing.  In turn the Brits were unnecessarily upset during the Civil War with American forces boarding a ship flying British colors, the Trent, and forcibly removing four Confederates.  Too bad Obama lawyers weren’t there to explain it was no biggie.

    I’m not necessarily saying we go in guns blazing but it could start with unequivocal condemnation from the administration, not preemptive surrender.

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    “The United States has no military obligation to come to the defense of Marshall Island-flagged vessels, a Defense Department representative said Tuesday, following the confrontation between a shipping vessel from that country and the Iranian navy.

    I am not aware of any specific agreement or treaty that calls for us to protect Marshallese vessels. We do have a clear interest in protecting freedom of navigation,” said the representative.”

    If I could look it up, why couldn’t this representative?

    • #24
  25. Boisfeuras Inactive
    Boisfeuras
    @Boisfeuras

    Claire Berlinski:

    Boisfeuras:It is very odd – particularly as I know from my day job, (I’m a maritime lawyer) that OFAC regards shipowners registered in the Marshall Islands as being obliged to comply with US sanctions against Iran.

    So you’re subject to the full weight of US penalties if you trade with Iran, but if your ship is seized by the Iranians, you’re on your own…

    I’d be curious about a maritime lawyer’s views of this. Have you ever heard of a similar case involving any analogous defense relationship?

    I haven’t. But then my field is commercial maritime law, not the public law governing the law of the sea. It just seems odd to me that the US would subject shipowners registered in an associated state of the US to its sanctions regime without extending the protection offered by the US Navy to US-flagged ships.

    • #25
  26. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Claire @24:

    Commie don’t surf (the web).

    • #26
  27. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    For the umpteenth time in the last 7 years, I am ashamed to be an American.

    • #27
  28. liberal jim Inactive
    liberal jim
    @liberaljim

    Mike LaRoche:In addition to hating America, its traditions, and a majority of it’s people, the low-rent Bolshevik currently occupying the White House also hates America’s allies. Had Republican leaders any courage, they would impeach him forthwith.

    Impeachment is what he wants.  He would never be convicted and the charade would give him ample opportunity to play the victim card.  A simple resolution asking the Democratic party to formally request he step down because he has proven to be an incapable leader would  serve the same  purpose and force Democrats to tie themselves closer to him.

    • #28
  29. liberal jim Inactive
    liberal jim
    @liberaljim

    Does no one see the similarity of how the mayor of Baltimore approached the riots and the way O. approaches forgone policy?  The problem is the GOP is as incompetent as the liberals are.

    • #29
  30. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Claire Berlinski:

    “The United States has no military obligation to come to the defense of Marshall Island-flagged vessels, a Defense Department representative said Tuesday, following the confrontation between a shipping vessel from that country and the Iranian navy.

    I am not aware of any specific agreement or treaty that calls for us to protect Marshallese vessels. We do have a clear interest in protecting freedom of navigation,” said the representative.”

    If I could look it up, why couldn’t this representative?

    You are over-thinking this. The Obama administration does not want the U.S, to be the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf; that is a role that should be reserved for, well, Persians.

    The administration’s actions are difficult to understand unless you accept the idea that they want to diminish America’s role in shaping world events.

    It seems incomprehensible that a leader would work to diminish his own nation’s prominence and prestige- but here we are.

    And he is not a lone psychopath; there is a large and influential political class behind him.

    We’re toast.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.