Dr Death tries to foment another Middle East war.

Gulf tensions

Mr Hunt tells us we need more warships. He needs to concentrate on our relationship with Iran. UK forces helped the Gibraltar authorities seize an Iranian tanker on the grounds that it was taking oil to Syria against EU and US sanctions. In response Iran threatened to take a UK tanker. Iran or associated groups had already made unprovoked attacks on other tankers in the area. This week we saw a possible threat to a UK tanker in the Straits of Hormuz, repelled by HMS Montrose.

The first thing we need is the evidence from the Iranian tanker to demonstrate the legitimacy of the seizure, with appropriate treatment of the Captain who has been detained. Presumably a case will be brought against him. The second thing we need is confirmation of the arrangements for future UK tanker security near to Iran. The US is indicating their forces might be part of a general response to any Iranian threats. The UK normally has four minesweepers and an amphibious landing ship based at Bahrain, and clearly the frigate HMS Montrose is also available. All these ships have weaponry that could warn off smaller Iranian naval vessels of the types being deployed. If the UK works with other allies led by the USA, then there is the Abraham Lincoln carrier group in the area as well.

As the USA and the UK says, defending the rights of all to passage in international shipping lanes is important to world trade and to peaceful co existence between countries. Oil sanctions have helped drive up the price of oil internationally, but not excessively. The rapid expansion of US oil and gas output continues to offset the losses of OPEC production through sanctions against Iran and through governmental incompetence in Venezuela. We need to hear more from Mr Hunt of how the UK is going to seek resolution of this conflict in the context of the Iranian nuclear agreement and the division between the EU and the USA on this matter.

The US strategy is to force policy change on Iran by sanctions. Iran responds with military provocation. The UK should do what it needs to do to defend our shipping, seeking to avoid being drawn into any wider military conflict.

By JOHNREDWOOD

TAP – Hunt’s hunting a war just like John Bolton.  The epithet in the title suits him well as he seeks conflict.  Hopefully Bumbling Boris will not be so keen on conflagration.

political betting adds this – www.politicalbetting.com

Currently the bookie makes it 1/2 for the Tory and 6/4 for Farage’s party. Given how well the latter did in Peterborough a few weeks ago coming with in a few hundred votes of beating Labour then the 6/4 looks attractive.

The one thing that could change that, of course, is that by August 1st there will be a new Conservative leader, most likely Boris Johnson, and my guess is that the expectation that he will give a boost to the Tories is priced into those odds.

Failing to beat the Tory vote total here would severely blunt the momentum that Farage has built up for his party since the successes in the May euro elections.

The Tory battle to recover the ground taken by Farage is the first electoral battle for the new leader.

Mike Smithson

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