The explanation offered by IRNA creates more questions than answers.
The IRGC Navy is sent to intercept and seize a cargo ship at the Strait of Hormuz to enforce a civil law suit by an private company in Iran against a shipping giant during a tense period in the region. Highly unusual, indeed!
According to the Navigation and Ports Organization public relations bureau, the decree was issued upon a complaint lodged by a private company named ‘Pars-Talaeeyeh Oil Products Company’ manager Hamid Reza Jahanian against MAERSK Shipping Line.
There may or may not be a legitimate debt owed, but that’s beside the point.
Seizing a vessel in international waters for debt is outside the norms of international law. But Iran’s actions, in addition to the constant goal of tweaking American noses, is being used to bolster their claim of territorial waters in what the US (and just about every other nation in the world) recognizes as international waters.
Iran also recognizes that most institutions in the West have a great deal of respect for the courts, be they domestic institutions or admiralty courts, or other transnational entities. They are simply using the West’s respect for the rule of law as a shield for their own lawlessness.
Of course, the current feckless US leadership encourages this behavior. But sooner or later, US leadership will change. And Iran would do well to remember that in the end, international law is simply what the strongest willed players in the game decide it is.
We’re curious as to the status of the crew. Iran might hold them as quasi hostages. Or, considering they are likely poor people from some third world nation, they could do the smart thing PR wise, and repatriate them to their home nation, and simply hold the vessel, loudly proclaiming their intention is solely to force Maersk to met its debt obligations.