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The seizure of a number of ships in recent months tells an uncomfortable story. In today’s multi-polar world, countries can grab other nations’ vessels and get away with it.

It’s not just Iran’s detention of the U.K.-flagged Stena Impero in retaliation for the seizure of one its own tankers by Britain. In recent months, other incidents have occurred that had nothing to do with smuggling or fishing disputes, the standard reasons for vessels to be stopped and held by governments. These detentions are geopolitical in nature.

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