Following the seizure of a South Korean oil tanker in the Strait of Hormoz, Iranian media outlets signaled the government’s main goal through this piracy. In this respect, the media unveiled officials’ dilemmas in various fields, including the economy, society, and international relationships.
Regarding the government’s economic problems, Iranian outlets highlighted state-backed parties’ roles and profiteering policy in the unprecedented air pollution. Simultaneously, they admitted to public hatred and the establishment’s concern about the eruption of another round of nationwide protests.
State-run media also blamed officials for the intensification of the government’s isolation. On the other hand, they explicitly revealed Tehran’s purpose of capturing a South-Korean-flagged tanker. Notably, in recent weeks, Iranian officials such as the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnasser Hematti had been paving the path for this piracy by grumbling about the government’s frozen funds in South Korean banks.
Iranian State-run Media Admit to Piracy
Vatan-e Ruz paper, affiliated to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei‘s Office, carried the headline: “We Captured Thieves”. “The seizure of this oil tanker in the Persian Gulf may send a serious message to the South Korean government. A message that leaves Seoul two options: paying its long-time debt to Tehran or [sacrificing] the security of [its flotilla] at the naval highway of the Persian Gulf and its communication with Arab partners,” the daily wrote.
“The impounding of South Korea’s oil tanker can more than ever before show [Iran’s] grave will for exerting pressure on this country to pay its debts to our country,” Vatan-e Ruz added.
Arman daily affiliated to ‘reformists’ quoted a government-linked expert Ali Bigdeli on the Islamic Republic’s intention through the South-Korean tanker’s illegal capture. “It is true that the South-Korean government cannot pay Iran’s demands through the banking system. However, humanitarian principles rule that this country pays at least some of its debts in the form of [Covid-19] medicine and vaccines,” the daily wrote.
This is while the Iranian government faces no barrier and restriction for purchasing medicine or procuring Covid-19 vaccines. In his earlier February 2020 press conference, then-Spokesperson of Foreign Ministry Abbas Mousavi openly said, “Food and medication had never been sanctioned.”
Corrupt and Inefficient State Versus Public Distrust
Iranian media generally pointed out public distrust toward the officials’ remarks and recommendations, which apparently shows the government’s inefficiency and the gap between the state and society.
Aftab-e Yazd daily raised a meaningful question, titling, “What would happen if we shut down [Tehran] City Council?” “As always, the people follow the news and comment. However, they do not care about politicians’ ideas and views, who have succeeded seats in Pasteur [Street—the President’s bureau], Baharestan [Street—the Parliament (Majlis) building], or Behesht [Street—the central branch of the judiciary],” the daily wrote.
“Fabricated Clash Between Left and Right,” wrote Mostaghel daily, pointing out false conflicts between ‘reformists’ and ‘principlists.’ “Talking to individuals who obtained [official] seats through rent-seeking, lobby, nepotism, political games, and are ruling according to the interests of themselves and their relatives, you are the reason for the collapsing in people’s trust,” the daily wrote.
Mardom Salari daily blamed officials for indifference about society’s dilemmas. “Air pollution, like many other problems, has become normal for the officials; there is no decision for shutting down Tehran,” the daily noted.
Another outlet controlled by President Hassan Rouhani severely criticized the Majlis for interfering in foreign policies. “The Majlis’s Shadow on Foreign Policies,” wrote Ebtekar daily. In its piece, the daily also highlighted the state’s stalemate and forecasted that “easing tensions in Iran’s foreign relations are out of reach in the near future.”
Ebtekar also underscored the Majlis’s recent law about 20-percent uranium enrichment is an extreme barrier for the government’s foreign policies. “Do these plans decrease the country’s foreign policies’ dilemmas or lift the sanctions? Who are directly responsible for the consequences of such plans?” the daily questioned.
The State’s Dire Political, Military, and Security Conditions
‘Reformist’ media outlets frequently emphasized the imperative of negotiations and concessions to the West. This faction portrays the ruling system’s fate as ‘bleak’, whereas officials still insist on isolation and contraction.
“The Risk of Increasing Tensions Between Iran and the U.S.,” wrote Setareh-e Sobh daily. The ‘reformist’-dominated daily pointed to sanctions and the government’s regional isolation, writing, “These pressures intend to put the [Iranian] state in a political, military, and security impasse to restrict the state’s presence in the region.”
Setareh-e Sobh sounded alarm bells about society’s volatile situation, adding: “There is no cheaper solution than negotiating with the U.S. Because the accumulation of domestic problems has left no way but using the diplomatic instrument.”
“Diplomatic Revenge or Psychological Operation” was Jahan-e Sanat daily’s title. In its piece, the daily warned about the deteriorating Iran-U.S. relationship, writing, “If the U.S. could not open this knot with fingers, it would use military forces.”
“In such circumstances, the slightest undiplomatic behavior may lead to irreparable damages… Therefore, Majlis should not increase tensions with provocative plans in this sensitive status quo,” Jahan-e Sanat wrote.