Hard-Liners in Iran See No Drawback to Bellicose Strategy – The New York Times

At the same time, Western officials have concluded, Iran began to demonstrate that it can threaten global oil markets, forcing others to share its economic pain. In addition to the attacks on tankers, which American officials say Iranian forces carried out with naval mines, Iran has also seized a few ships, including a British-flagged oil tanker that was taken in an apparent retaliation for the capture of an Iranian tanker by British forces near Gibraltar.

It suffered little penalty. The United States declined to retaliate for the tanker sabotage. With Britain eager to lower the temperature, officials in Gibraltar, a British territory, freed the detained Iranian vessel last month.

The European powers accelerated their efforts to provide sanctions relief and preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Even the United Arab Emirates appeared to step back from conflict. The Emirates declined to publicly blame Iran for the damage done to tankers in its waters. Instead, Emirati officials held talks with Iran about maritime security. And at the same time, the Emirates began to withdraw from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen against the Houthis.

The Emirates “have awoken to the fact that they are very exposed,” said Sanam Vakil, a scholar of Iran and the Persian Gulf at Chatham House, a policy institute in London.

With the Emirates signaling that it wants to avoid further escalation, she said, Tehran was beginning to succeed in its long-held goal of dividing the anti-Iran alliance in the region.

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