Former UK Ambassador to Syria gave me this comment on the UK seizure of an oil tanker bound for Syria:
“Technically the measure will find UK Foreign Office lawyers to defend it, but other lawyers will deem the action illegal. While sending oil to Syria may be illegal under US law it is not illegal under EU law. The far-fetched justification seems to be that the Banyas oil refinery in Syria provides financial benefit to the Syrian government, is therefore subject to EU sanctions, and thus any contact with it whatever is sanctionable. An Iranian lawyer would point out that if the EU had intended its restrictions to prevent oil shipments to Syria it could easily have adopted a relevant regulation. It didn’t.
For five years until now since Banyas was sanctioned tankers have been making their way past Gibraltar heading for Banyas and the UK has not seen fit to intervene. Why now?
This is obviously Hunt trying to look macho; the UK currying favour with Trump to get a better trade deal.
This will increase tension with Iran, of course, at precisely the wrong moment, when even the US by its own admission is looking for a ‘workaround’ for Iranian oil shipments to China. How do we think Iran is more likely to react – by meekly kowtowing, or doubling down in some way ?
Ordinary Syrians are suffering greatly because of the impact of US oil sanctions. Hospitals don’t have fuel to power their generators. Car drivers have to queue for up to 12 hours to get petrol. We should be proud of ourselves…..Hunt on the Today BBC radio programme this morning refused to say if he considered fox hunting cruel. Bravo, macho man! Putting the boot into a prostrate Syria as well.
Spain may not be best pleased at this reminder of UK colonial arrogance. A spanner Macho Man has thrown into the Brexit works?”