Iran seizes British tankers. On Friday, amid Iran’s ongoing posturing in the Strait of Hormuz, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized two U.K.-affiliated oil tankers. It’s no coincidence that this occurred the same day that Gibraltar’s Supreme Court gave the British government permission to hold an Iranian oil tanker for at least another month, with a hearing set for Aug. 15. The move, however, was a miscalculation by Tehran. At this point, the details surrounding the seizure are not nearly as important as tracking the reaction of world players; continued missteps could lead toward escalation in the U.S.-Iran standoff in the Gulf. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the seizures were “unacceptable,” though Britain is pursuing a diplomatic response. France and Germany have thrown their support behind the U.K. and condemned Iran’s actions. U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be in contact with British officials, and the U.S. military said it would continue unarmed aerial surveillance of the strait to ensure the safety of nearby U.S. vessels. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its concern over tensions in the Strait of Hormuz and used the latest event to underscore how the often-militarized presence of myriad countries in the Persian Gulf is a recipe for conflict to break out.
Iranian visits to Lebanon and Syria. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an aide to the president of the Iranian parliament, met with the secretary-general of Hezbollah and the speaker of the Lebanese parliament on Friday in Beirut. They discussed Palestinians in Lebanon and regional developments – particularly those involving Israel. (Earlier in the week, Amir-Abdollahian made a stop in Damascus, where he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad.) On the same day as the Beirut meetings, the commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces said the “resistance front,” which is comprised of Iranian forces and regional partners like pro-Assad Syrian forces and Hezbollah fighters, would retaliate against Israel for its attacks in Syria. Such meetings and bellicose rhetoric from Iran are to be expected, but these developments come as Israel has made similar threats against Iran and built up its military forces for a confrontation with Hezbollah. Given that one of our forecasts for the year involves an Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon, we’re taking note.
Mexico and migration. A report from the Mexican Foreign Ministry indicates that Mexico stopped 104,000 migrants in June alone and reduced migration flows by about 40 percent. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, in announcing the numbers, said Mexico had fulfilled its promise to stem the flow of Central American migrants into the United States, a promise made in exchange for the U.S. holding off on imposing tariffs on Mexican goods. The U.S. gave Mexico 45 days – until July 21 – to reduce migrant flows. Ebrard’s statement came during his trip to El Salvador, where he met with newly elected President Nayib Bukele to discuss migration and an integrated development plan for Central America. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled tomorrow to meet separately with both Bukele and Ebrard to discuss migration. Whether or not Mexico succeeded in reducing migration flows will be subject to U.S. interpretation, since Washington provided no public criteria for a sufficient reduction.
- The head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command described as problematic India’s plans to acquire the S-400 air defense system from Russia but said the U.S. would continue to keep open defense discussions with India.
- Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry announced that King Salman has granted approval for the country to host U.S. troops.
- Ukraine will hold parliamentary elections tomorrow, July 21.
- Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned after a war crimes court in The Hague summoned him to make a statement regarding his role in the 1998-99 Kosovo War.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to Cuba July 23 – the same day that the Venezuelan opposition has scheduled protests and that the Lima Group will meet in Peru.
- Hong Kong police confiscated 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of explosives, 10 petrol bombs and other crude weapons in a warehouse ahead of anti-China protests expected this weekend.
- Fighting between Houthi rebel forces and the Saudi-led coalition has resumed in Sanaa, Yemen.