From Britain’s Daily Telegraph (reprinted in Canada’s National Post, Thursday, July 25, 2019:

Hassan Rouhini, Iran’s president, said Wednesday that if Britain reversed its “wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar” then “they will receive a proper response from Iran.”

There was no immediate British reaction to the offer. The U.K. has insisted it seized the Iranian tanker because it was taking oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

The article explained that Rouhani suggested that he would release the British tanker his government seized recently if the U.K. government would release an Iranian that it seized near Gibraltar.

That sounds reasonable to me.

But check the last sentence of the quoted news piece. The British government says, apparently with a straight face, that it seized an Iranian tanker because it violated the EU sanctions. But, assuming that the tanker really was headed to Syria (and there is some reasonable doubt about this), so the hell what? Unless something has changed in the last day, neither Syria nor Iran is in the EU. So how could a trade between the two be subject to EU sanctions?

I’ve written a number of articles (and here) laying out why sanctions are generally not a good idea and hurt mainly innocent people. It’s a whole other step for government A to insist that government B comply with sanctions imposed by an organization that government A, but not government B (nor the government of the people in country C who are on the other end of the exchange) belongs to.