Transcript of LBC radio interview – Eddie Mair and Tom Sharpe. 13 Aug 19 at 5:20pm

EM
It’s been weeks since tension between Iran and the UK flared over the seizure of vessels in the Med and the Gulf. Well now Iran says Britain might free its oil tankers soon. Tom Sharpe is a retired naval commander and a communication specialist at a Special Project Partners. Tom, what do you make of these optimistic noises coming out of Tehran?

TS
Hi Eddie, it does sound a little bit like a rapprochement. We’re hearing three to four days for Grace 1 and then hopefully that means a knock on into Stellar Impero. This in part is an extension of the fluctuation of activity that is has been going on in that region for some time. As a warship operator out there, the tension has ebbed and flowed for years.  Sometimes the Iranians have been particularly aggressive and sometimes very calm. So this is perhaps an extension of that although it didn’t feel like it a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully when we get to these two ships released in a ship swap or whatever it’s going to be called, then we can go back to slightly calmer waters. However, I have my doubts because I think fundamentally what the Iranians want from this;  sanction relief and protecting the regime conflicts with what the Americans want, which is freedom of navigation, to reassure and to protect infrastructure and then, ultimately, a denuclearized Iran. Now if we can’t separate out that last bit from the reassure and protect shipping [tasks] then the two will always be at loggerheads, tensions will continue to ebb and flow and the risk of miscalculation in that small area of sea will remain very high.

EM
I wonder how much attention Iran was paying to the fact that John Bolton, who was mentioned at our last story, he’s mentioned in this story too, the national security advisor for president Trump, has been in London.

TS
I would imagine they’ll be paying fairly close attention to that because it may well determine what we do next. Clearly I’m not operating it that the higher echelons of politics, but we have caught ourselves slightly between two stools thus far. First, there is the US policy of “maximum pressure” and second, the EU attempt at starting a task force. And even in the last couple of weeks, through the changes of senior government, we have shifted our posture from one to the other. At some point we’re going to have to pick a side and I suspect the conversations today may determine those decisions and that will affect our posture in the Gulf. So I would imagine there’ll be looking fairly closely at how those conversations go today.

EM
Thanks so much. That’s Tom Sharpe, retired naval commander now with Special Project Partners. Five thirty, here’s the LBC news…

Published by Tom Sharpe

Tom Sharpe is a freelance communications consultant and partner at www.SPP.global, an international communications consultancy. He specialises in managing reputations and capacity building for complex and often contested organisations. Prior to this he spent 27 years in the Royal Navy, 20 of which were at sea. He commanded four different warships; Northern Ireland, Fishery Protection, a Type 23 Frigate and the Ice Patrol Vessel, HMS Endurance.

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