ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Tehran could “seize” a British tanker if UK authorities in Gibraltar do not release an Iranian supertanker captured on Thursday, a senior Tehran official threatened on Friday.
Local authorities with the aid of British Royal Marines (BRM) took custody of the Iranian ship off the coast of Gibraltar. Afterward, the BRM claimed it had evidence that the tanker, Grace 1, was bound for Syria with around two million barrels of Iranian crude oil, in violation of EU sanctions that prohibit the sale of oil to the embattled nation.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned its UK ambassador in Tehran over the seizure and described the act as “illegal” and a form of “piracy,” a statement which the British Foreign Office dismissed as “nonsense.”
Gibraltar’s supreme court has ruled to keep the Iranian ship in custody for another two weeks until authorities conclude a thorough investigation into its contents and target destination.
“If Britain does not release the Iranian tanker, it is the duty of the authorities to retaliate and seize a British tanker,” tweeted Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran's influential Expediency Discernment Council.
The US is reported to have provided the intelligence requires to detain the Iranian oil cargo, which Reuters wrote seemed to have been “loaded at an Iranian port.” Tehran has claimed it was instead carrying Iraqi oil.
This marks yet another incident amid continued building tensions between Tehran and Washington, which continues its “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran a year after it left a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and international powers.
The Iranian economy, dependent on the country’s oil and gas sales, has suffered since the US imposed successive punitive rounds of sanctions since 2018 targeting various sectors, with effects that include decimated oil exports, down now to hundreds of thousands of barrels per day from well into the millions before the US measures.
Editing by John J. Catherine