ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian naval forces announced they had captured a “foreign” tanker in the Persian Gulf, a semi-official state news agency reported on Thursday, alleging that the ship was smuggling oil. The incident occurred earlier in the week when a tanker believed to have belonged to the UAE was towed to Iranian shores.
This comes amid already high tensions in Gulf waters following multiple attacks on oil tankers in recent months as well as the Iranian air force's downing of a US drone that Tehran said had breached its skies, a charge Washington denied.
After naval patrols “confirmed a foreign vessel was shipping smuggled fuel,” they “seized it south of the Lark island,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement, according to Fars news. The tanker was “carrying one million liters” of illicit oil, it claimed.
The IRGC added that the ship has a total carrying capacity of 2 million liters and had 12 crewmembers aboard at the time of the seizure.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that Iranian patrols received a distress call from a yet unidentified tanker that was experiencing “technical faults” in the Gulf and rushed to its aid. They “used a tugboat to pull it towards Iranian waters for the necessary repairs to be carried out,” the ministry said, as quoted by IRNA media.
Gulf tensions spiked when British forces along with local authorities impounded an Iranian oil tanker off the shores of Gibraltar that was reportedly delivering oil to Syria in contravention of EU sanctions against such assistance.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened the UK with retaliatory measures for what they described a British “piracy,” should their ship not be released. The UK, meanwhile, has stated it wants guarantees that the tanker would not continue Syria before releasing it.
Last week, three Iranian ships attempted to block the passage of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway that separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman and through which about 20 percent of the world’s crude passes.
At the same time, Iran’s standoff with its archfoe, the US, continues. Washington last year withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and international powers and has since imposed successive rounds of punitive sanctions in what it says are efforts to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table and to curb Iran's “malign” activities in the region.
Editing by John J. Catherine