Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. More on Iran’s Illegal Seizure of the Maersk Tigris

 

Maersk-TigrisLast week, Claire posted about Iran’s seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship, MV Maersk Tigris. To recap, the Iranians decided to demonstrate, yet again, that the U.S. is a worthless ally by seizing a cargo ship flagged by a country that we pledged to defend. It appears that the seizure is based on an Iranian court judgement against Maersk, which chartered the vessel.

Eugene Kontorovich, on the excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog, analyzes Iran’s legal claims for seizing the Maersk Tigris and concludes that the country doesn’t have a leg to stand on:

Maritime law in fact allows nations to arrest foreign vessels for certain kind of claims, or maritime liens, and the cargo dispute between Iran and Maersk qualifies. However, the arrest of ships engaged in innocent transit is limited under the United Convention of the Law of the Sea, and general custom, to a limited set of claims involving the vessel itself…

Thus the ownership of ships, the scope of the sister ship/associated ship doctrine, and so forth are entirely besides the point. Iran’s seizure clearly violates international law, and one might add, a branch of international law that is ordinarily well-respected, and quite fundamental for global commerce. Moreover, no maritime lien gives Iran any authority to detain the crew.

He continues:

Given the flagrant breach of international law, there seems to be a surprising silence from the “international community” and proponents of global governance. Recall that Russia’s unlawful seizure of a Greenpeace vessel in 2013 lead to an outcry from NGOs, Nobelists, and numerous governments. To be sure, Arctic Horizon incident was more aggravated in some sense (the absurd piracy charges against the crew), but the Tigris incident is more aggravated in other ways (the Maersk ship was not engaged in any arguably illegal or dangerous activities when arrested, unlike the Greenpeace vessels).

So, a state that routinely uses terrorism illegally has seized a defenseless vessel on the open seas and illegally taken her crew captive. Which, if you think about it, is almost the precise definition of what makes one a pirate. Fortunately for Iran, we cannot call Iran a pirate-state because pirates are non-state actors. But, as per Claire’s post:

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.”

Of course, Obama could chose to do something about this, even if he isn’t obligated. But he won’t because that might muss the Ayatollah’s hair, and that’s not how we treat our newfound friends. The Iranians will, once again, be rewarded for their audacity. Obama is the most convenient adversary Americas’ enemies could hope for.

There are 28 comments.

  1. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    John Hendrix:Eugene Kontorovich, on the excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog, analyzes Iran’s legal claims for seizing the Maersk Tigris and concludes that Iran doesn’t have a leg to stand on:

    This type of rumination is absolutely absurd. The shahs of Iran are pirates, bandits.

    Positing this fight as some type of legal dispute is as ridiculous as it is laughable, these are violent and resolved men. Men who are resolved to do violence on Western individuals such as ourselves in order to achieve their goals.

    The international legal niceties only have relevance to the functionally retarded.

    • #1
    • May 3, 2015, at 9:27 AM PDT
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  2. Dr. Strangelove Thatcher
    Dr. Strangelove Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Roberto:

    John Hendrix:Eugene Kontorovich, on the excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog, analyzes Iran’s legal claims for seizing the Maersk Tigris and concludes that Iran doesn’t have a leg to stand on:

    This type of rumination is absolutely absurd. The shahs of Iran are pirates, bandits.

    Positing this fight as some type of legal dispute is as ridiculous as it is laughable, these are violent and resolved men. Men who are resolved to do violence on Western individuals such as ourselves in order to achieve their goals.

    The international legal niceties only have relevance to the functionally retarded.

    Please don’t misunderstand me: the only use rogue states have for international law is to it use it as lawfare against those states that attempt to operate within the rules. We need to remove Iran’s regime for the same reason that it is a public service to shoot mad dogs on sight.

    Just to be explicit about why I posted this: it refutes Iran’s stated justification for commandeering the MV Maersk Tigris. Since I never believed anything Iran said about this in the first place this VC post didn’t cause me to rethink anything.

    • #2
    • May 3, 2015, at 11:11 AM PDT
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  3. TG Thatcher
    TG

    And it *is* a good thing for the bogus arguments to be annihilated … so when our Leftist friends bring up the talking points, we can refute those points (for the audience that may be listening).

    • #3
    • May 3, 2015, at 12:46 PM PDT
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  4. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    This is really, really disturbing.

    Such a small thing in one way, but so clearly indicative of a big one in another.

    • #4
    • May 4, 2015, at 6:24 AM PDT
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  5. Hugh Member

    Bargaining chip for the nuclear deal. The ship will be returned when the deal is signed.

    Victory for Obama!!!

    • #5
    • May 4, 2015, at 6:39 AM PDT
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  6. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t think very many people are arguing that what Iran did was legal.

    The debate is over whose responsibility it is to go in with guns blazing.

    My position is that if a Danish corporation like Maesrk wants the US Navy to protect its ships then Maersk can darn well register its ships in the United States instead of flying flags of convenience to avoid taxes and regulations.

    No representation without taxation.

    • #6
    • May 4, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  7. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Misthiocracy:My position is that if a Danish corporation like Maesrk wants the US Navy to protect its ships then Maersk can darn well register its ships in the United States instead of flying flags of convenience to avoid taxes and regulations.

    No representation without taxation.

    I agree with the sentiment, but I’d say there’s a stronger case to be made in favor of amending our agreements with protectorates like the Marshall Islands; if we’re going to be their Navy, perhaps they shouldn’t get to be so fancy-free with whom they allow to fly their flag.

    • #7
    • May 4, 2015, at 7:09 AM PDT
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  8. Ward Robles Member

    So, let me get this straight, an Iranian company has a judgment against Maersk, so the Iranian government gets to seize a ship operated (not even owned) by Maersk. So, seizing Iranian ships would be appropriate to settle judgements against Iranian entities, especially government-owned vessels to settle judgments against the Iranian government. I think the Navy should just grab all the Iranian vessels it can until we get all these pesky details worked out. Nothing to see here, move along; this is just business.

    • #8
    • May 4, 2015, at 7:15 AM PDT
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  9. Dr. Strangelove Thatcher
    Dr. Strangelove Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Misthiocracy: My position is that if a Danish corporation like Maesrk wants the US Navy to protect its ships then Maersk can darn well register its ships in the United States instead of flying flags of convenience to avoid taxes and regulations.No representation without taxation.

    I think both you and Tom Myers have a point: the U.S. flag is a pretty expensive flag because it comes with U.S. naval protection. We have an interest in discouraging free-riders. That said, if our primary concern in the Maesrk case is discouraging free-riders then I think we have our heads turned. In this situation our reputation for protecting our allies is at stake.

    Iran singled out the MV Maersk Tigris precisely because the Marshall Islands chose to accept American protection. It is not accidental that Iran didn’t choose to seize a Russian-flagged vessel.

    My sense is that this is not the time to be lenient with Iran over her bullying of our allies primarily because–if we were–then that would damage our reputation for being ready to protect our allies.

    • #9
    • May 4, 2015, at 7:50 AM PDT
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  10. Matty Van Member

    Lots of people on Rico would seem to be happy going to war over this. Am I misreading the tenor of the statements here and on the previous thread?

    Justifying war over treaty obligations is a very bad idea in this case. Still, it’s a much better idea than going to war because Iran did something illegal. That’s a really REALLY bad idea.

    On the other hand, comparing the big stink raised by the international community over Russia’s confiscation of the Greenpeace vessel with said community’s silence about the Maersk Tigris is excellent. The “community” made a big stink then; it should do it again now. Nobody went to war then, nobody should go to war now. Unless Denmark or the Marshall Islands want to.

    • #10
    • May 4, 2015, at 7:53 AM PDT
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  11. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Matty Van:Lots of people on Rico would seem to be happy going to war over this. Am I misreading the tenor ofthe statements here and on the previous thread?

    I think you are misreading this. It is less “Let’s invade Iran” and more “Let’s drop the deal, add sanctions, and threaten Iran.” There’s also plenty of military options short of Iraq 2.0. Reagan sunk the Iranian Navy. Clinton launched waves of cruise missiles. We could blockade their oil terminals, or seize their ships in response.

    • #11
    • May 4, 2015, at 10:38 AM PDT
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  12. SPare Member

    Matty Van:Lots of people on Rico would seem to be happy going to war over this. Am I misreading the tenor ofthe statements here and on the previous thread?

    Well, it’s arguable that this constituted an act of war on the part of the Iranians, so it should be on the table. That said, war doesn’t mean land invasion.

    At the same time, bad actors have been committing acts of war against the West for a very long time. Part of the reason that Reagan’s tanker war (a very near parallel to this) was so successful is that he took the action seriously, and used the full breadth of options at his disposal.

    Part of the reason that nobody trusts Obama is that nobody really believes that all options are on the table, regardless of how much he says it. They know that unless a provocation rises to the extent that there is no option BUT to commit significant land forces, no coercive action will follow. Accordingly, villainy rises.

    • #12
    • May 4, 2015, at 10:49 AM PDT
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  13. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    Justifying war over treaty obligations is a very bad idea in this case.

    Since when is honoring your commitments a bad idea?

    • #13
    • May 4, 2015, at 11:22 AM PDT
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  14. Matty Van Member

    Klaatu, well if you phrase it like that!

    But I wouldn’t phrase it like that.

    If Iran invaded the Marshall Islands, then honoring treaty obligations would make sense. Granted, I don’t have much knowledge about either incident, but this would seem to be more like the Russian seizure of the Greenpeace boat. Neither incident is worth fighting for, both are worth making a stink about. That Obama, the American media, and the “world community” are not making a stink is rather despicable. But the Maersk Tigris is not something that calls for US sabre rattling. Danish sabre rattling, maybe. But that’s for the Danes to decide.

    • #14
    • May 4, 2015, at 4:23 PM PDT
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  15. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    But the Maersk Tigris is not something that calls for US sabre rattling. Danish sabre rattling, maybe. But that’s for the Danes to decide.

    What if she carried a U.S. flag? To my mind, our agreement with the Marshall Islands makes this the functional equivilent.

    • #15
    • May 4, 2015, at 4:37 PM PDT
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  16. Richard Fulmer Member

    I think that Michelle should tweet Iran into submission.

    • #16
    • May 4, 2015, at 6:44 PM PDT
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  17. Profile Photo Member

    Klaatu

    But the Maersk Tigris is not something that calls for US sabre rattling. Danish sabre rattling, maybe. But that’s for the Danes to decide.

    What if she carried a U.S. flag? To my mind, our agreement with the Marshall Islands makes this the functional equivilent.

    Exactly. Iran chose a protectorate to test the edges of our willingness. You let this go, and they will capture a ship flying the US flag. Let that go, and Iran just keeps pushing. There is nothing lower than a person who grovels to their enemies and abandons their friends, and that is doubly true in international affairs.

    • #17
    • May 4, 2015, at 7:36 PM PDT
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  18. Dr. Strangelove Thatcher
    Dr. Strangelove Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Guy Incognito:Exactly. Iran chose a protectorate to test the edges of our willingness. You let this go, and they will capture a ship flying the US flag. Let that go, and Iran just keeps pushing. There is nothing lower than a person who grovels to their enemies and abandons their friends, and that is doubly true in international affairs.

    This is the point I was making in #9.

    I would agree that we would have less reason to get involved if the Maersk Tigris had been captured by, say, Somali pirates. In this case the rationales for holding the nation who chose to rent their flag to operator of the Maersk Tigris responsible for dealing with the Somali pirates makes sense.

    But this situation is different: Iran wouldn’t have bothered to seize the Maersk Tigris had the U.S. not sent a carrier to thwart Iran’s attempt to resupply al Houthi fighters. Put another way, nothing would have happened to the Maersk Tigris if it weren’t for America’s geopolitical friction with Iran.

    Put another way, the only reason why the Marshall Islands attracted trouble is because they are an America’s ally. if America pretends it doesn’t understand these underlying factors and abandons the Marshall Islands to fend for herself the best she can in a fight then Obama will send our allies the message that being our ally actually increases their risk of attack, not reduces it.

    It is unfortunate that the Marshall Islands has gotten caught-up in our geopolitical friction with Iran. We didn’t foresee that coming. True, we are not technically obligated to do something about this. But to limit ourselves to ineffectual gestures would have negative foreseeable geopolitical consequences for our reputation and our influence.

    • #18
    • May 4, 2015, at 8:25 PM PDT
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  19. Matty Van Member

    Guy, actually I agree with every word in #17. Does that surprise you? Notice there is nothing in my posts about “letting this go” and nothing that implies “groveling” in any way.

    Obviously I don’t agree with you guys on policing the world, and that means I’ll automatically disagree with you on the handling of international incidents. But I do agree with #17 that Obama is a poor globocop. What you guys forget, though, is that so long as America takes on the policing of the world it is absolutely impossible to not have poor globocops in charge a good deal of the time. You choose to police the world, automatically you will have “letting things go” and “grovelling” from time to time. This is not the America intended by the Constitution.

    EDIT. John, you got in ahead of me while I was typing. I pretty much agree with #18, too, though I would use those details as object lessons in why policing the world is not a good idea.

    • #19
    • May 4, 2015, at 8:27 PM PDT
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  20. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    Matty,

    if not us, who?

    • #20
    • May 4, 2015, at 8:37 PM PDT
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  21. Matty Van Member

    “If not us, who?”

    Eisenhower answered that question in his military-industrial complex speech. The world needed our policing for 15 years after the war. But no longer than that. Europe (and by extension other rising democracies in the world) needed to learn to take care of themselves. We couldn’t afford to treat them as children, which only assures they will remain children. Good deal for them. They let us protect them and then funnel money that should go to defense into social programs.

    Our policing the world, combined with our own social programs, insures that the great American experiment will someday collapse under a mountain of debt and regulation. We need to return to the small limited government intended by the Constitution. That entails, among other things, letting other democracies grow up and take care of themselves. No worries. They can certainly afford it.

    • #21
    • May 4, 2015, at 10:04 PM PDT
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  22. Titus Techera Contributor

    Matty Van:Guy, actually I agree with every word in #17. Does that surprise you? Notice there is nothing in my posts about “letting this go” and nothing that implies “groveling” in any way.

    Obviously I don’t agree with you guys on policing the world, and that means I’ll automatically disagree with you on the handling of international incidents. But I do agree with #17 that Obama is a poor globocop. What you guys forget, though, is that so long as America takes on the policing of the world it is absolutely impossible to not have poor globocops in charge a good deal of the time. You choose to police the world, automatically you will have “letting things go” and “grovelling” from time to time. This is not the America intended by the Constitution.

    EDIT. John, you got in ahead of me while I was typing. I pretty much agree with #18, too, though I would use those details as object lessons in why policing the world is not a good idea.

    Don’t police the world. But when the sealanes are under threat, you’ve got to protect them, right? When allied flags are under attack you have to react? Nobody here has said, war! They say, make diplomatic trouble for these people, exact a price for them, retaliate. Not invade & bomb them into the sweet hereafter!

    • #22
    • May 5, 2015, at 12:17 AM PDT
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  23. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    Eisenhower answered that question in his military-industrial complex speech. The world needed our policing for 15 years after the war. But no longer than that. Europe (and by extension other rising democracies in the world) needed to learn to take care of themselves. We couldn’t afford to treat them as children, which only assures they will remain children. Good deal for them. They let us protect them and then funnel money that should go to defense into social programs.

    Our policing the world, combined with our own social programs, insures that the great American experiment will someday collapse under a mountain of debt and regulation. We need to return to the small limited government intended by the Constitution. That entails, among other things, letting other democracies grow up and take care of themselves. No worries. They can certainly afford it.

    I really did not ask what Eisenhower thought we should have done 55 years ago but who you would like to see policing the world today. Would we be better off if China controlled the Pacific? Or if they were competing with the Japanese for such control? Would we be better off if the Iranians controlled the Persian Gulf? Germany and Russia competing for dominance in Central Europe? That has not exactly worked well in the past.
    We do not police the world because it is in anyone’s interest but our own.

    • #23
    • May 5, 2015, at 6:28 AM PDT
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  24. Matty Van Member

    Titus, if America’s military mission abroad was reduced to protecting sea lanes, and doing it with proportionate help from other countries, I would be quite happy. And “nobody here has said war”? Maybe. But I strongly scent the willingness and even the desire for war. That’s why I asked earlier if that was people’s intention. In any case, as I’ve said to others who believed they are disagreeing with me, actually I agree with everything specific you say, with the exception of “protecting allied flags.” If the allied flag is simply a cheap way for some country to put American blood and treasure on the line, at no cost to itself, then I strongly disagree with the idea of “protecting allied flags.”

    Klaatu, yes, you asked me who I think should be policing the world and granted I didn’t give names. That’s because I have no names to give. I am a constitutionalist. That, to me, means that it is not America’s place, nor is it the place of America’s citizens (like myself) to say who should be protecting what parts of the world. There’s nothing in the Constitution about that kind of immense world-spanning power. On the other hand, I do believe in freedom of the seas. See my comment to Titus. But I’m only comfortable with protecting the sealanes IF we otherwise pull back from policing the world. If the Great American Experiment collapses under the above-mentioned mountain of debt and regulation, it will help no one.

    • #24
    • May 5, 2015, at 7:13 AM PDT
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  25. Titus Techera Contributor

    Matty Van:Titus, if America’s military mission abroad was reduced to protecting sea lanes, and doing it with proportionate help from other countries, I would be quite happy.

    Wait a minute, we were not talking about this being the only thing Americans should do with arms!

    And “nobody here has said war”? Maybe.

    Maybe? It’s actually some 20 comments. You are confused as to whether anyone said, let’s got to war or at least maybe we should!

    But I strongly scent the willingness and even the desire for war.

    Your nose, eh! Grand!

    That’s why I asked earlier if that was people’s intention.

    So what were the answers? Does not that matter?

    In any case, as I’ve said to others who believed they are disagreeing with me, actually I agree with everything specific you say, with the exception of “protecting allied flags.” If the allied flag is simply a cheap way for some country to put American blood and treasure on the line, at no cost to itself, then I strongly disagree with the idea of “protecting allied flags.”

    You may have a point here–but this is not to be debated when what is at stake is state piracy. Exact punishment–there are negotiations going on, there are matters of trade or finance that could do the work!–& then change the rules or agreements or accords or whatever diplomatic fiat is involved.

    • #25
    • May 5, 2015, at 7:17 AM PDT
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  26. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive

    Klaatu, yes, you asked me who I think should be policing the world and granted I didn’t give names. That’s because I have no names to give. I am a constitutionalist. That, to me, means that it is not America’s place, nor is it the place of America’s citizens (like myself) to say who should be protecting what parts of the world. There’s nothing in the Constitution about that kind of immense world-spanning power. On the other hand, I do believe in freedom of the seas. See my comment to Titus. But I’m only comfortable with protecting the sealanes IF we otherwise pull back from policing the world. If the Great American Experiment collapses under the above-mentioned mountain of debt and regulation, it will help no one.

    My copy of the Constitution clearly gives to Congress the power to raise and support an Army, provide and maintain a Navy, define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the Law of Nations. I do not see this as a constitutional issue. Am I missing something?

    • #26
    • May 5, 2015, at 7:24 AM PDT
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  27. Profile Photo Member

    @Matty Van

    The problem with the non-interventionist approach to international affairs is that it’s impossible. I’m pretty sure all of us here would like to be like Switzerland, but that’s not in the cards because we’re not small, isolated countries with a long history of neutrality. We’re the most powerful country in the world, controlling 25% of its economy. We have to police the world because we are the world. We will have to deal with every rising Napoleon sooner or later, because they will always be coming for us (sword of Damocles and all that). So we can either work to prevent their rise or fight big wars with them once they gain power. There is no neutrality option.

    • #27
    • May 5, 2015, at 8:08 AM PDT
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  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Misthiocracy:My position is that if a Danish corporation like Maesrk wants the US Navy to protect its ships then Maersk can darn well register its ships in the United States instead of flying flags of convenience to avoid taxes and regulations.

    No representation without taxation.

    I agree with the sentiment, but I’d say there’s a stronger case to be made in favor of amending our agreements with protectorates like the Marshall Islands; if we’re going to be their Navy, perhaps they shouldn’t get to be so fancy-free with whom they allow to fly their flag.

    Maybe going forward, that should be the agreement.

    At the moment, the US has its honor on the line, just as it did with Ukraine, which it had also committed to defend.

    Perhaps the US shouldn’t make commitments to defend people, or we should do so on different terms, or we should commit to defending fewer people. None of these seem like arguments for neglecting to follow through on commitments that we have made.

    The US doesn’t have to use diplomacy to achieve its aims. We could use sanctions, rockets, and such when things get intolerable, and suck up the economic and personal losses from tolerable acts inimical to American interests. If we do want to work to protect American interests abroad, though, diplomacy is by far the cheapest and most effective method, but achieving things through words only works if your words mean something.

    • #28
    • May 6, 2015, at 3:20 AM PDT
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