Iran Seizes British-Flagged Oil Tanker

Iran Seizes British-Flagged Oil Tanker

July 24th 2019

Growing tensions between the West and Tehran risk more trouble for commercial shipments using the strategically crucial channel. Pressures are high between Iran and the U.S. after Iran declares it seized an oil tanker flagged by the British.

A British-flagged oil tanker is currently held in the Strait of Hormuz by the Iranian forces, as increasing tensions mount between the West and Tehran. This rising tension continues to risk further disruption amongst commercial shippers who make use of the strategically vital waterway.

Another vessel managed by the British, was on Friday boarded by Iranian armed forces in the Persian Gulf. The ship was later freed with confirmations coming from the British shipping official, and its U.K. managers.

The latest developments on Friday came hours after a court sitting extended the custody of an Iranian oil tanker seized earlier in July by the British authorities. The ruling passed in the British territory of Gibraltar after the oil tanker breached the European sanctions on Syria. After the seizure, Iran had made threats with equal reprisal.

Tensions are mounting gradually in the Persian Gulf as Washington tightens its economic sanctions against Iran. This penalty comes as part of an effort to coerce Tehran to negotiate new limits on its military and nuclear activities. Even as Tehran and Washington both maintain they do not need a war; current events are raising fears of it. A miscalculation on both sides could further widen armed struggle in the Middle East.

Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign secretary, maintain he is “extremely concerned” and would be part of a crisis meeting amongst other top government officials concerning ways to respond. Jeremy further confirmed the government “was not considering military options” but, rather, a diplomatic approach.

Speaking with Iran’s Fars news agency was Iranian maritime personnel about the seized British tanker ‘Stena Impero’ after collision with a fishing boat. “After the incident, it became essential to survey the reasons,” the official said.

The vessel with a crew of 23, was unfilled and on course to Saudi Arabia to refill its cargo when some unnamed helicopter and small craft apprehended it. The vessel on international waters was transiting the Strait of Hormuz noted Stena AB Group, the shipowner.

The Liberian-flagged Mesdar, handled by Glasgow-based Norbulk Shipping, was the second ship freed to continue its journey after being boarded by Iranian armed forces, Norbulk said. On Friday, at least three supertankers were reported by their managers to stop sailings near Iranian waters, said European brokers.

The newest ramp-up in tensions arises at a delicate period for Britain. Britain is within weeks from changing its prime minister amidst the latest exit attempts from the EU. The country may become diplomatically isolated if its efforts to appease both the EU and the United States foreign-policy goals fail.

The U.K. has continued its support of the EU decision to sanction a nuclear accord with Iran. Nevertheless, it is cautious of disaffecting the U.S., who applies a more hardline attitude towards Iran. The deadlock with Iran could foster the first test for Britain’s next PM. The new PM is set to be officially made public in the coming days. Boris Johnson, who beforehand defends nuclear accord for Iran, remain in pole position to get the nomination.

In response to Iran’s new moves, the Pentagon on Friday confirmed the U.S. military forces in the Middle East have commenced contacting operational U.S. ships to ensure their safety. Also, American planes are set to provide watch from the air. Meeting on Friday as well were Top Defense and State Department, representatives. The meeting was intended to discuss its plans on introducing more recognized and multination patrols to protecting commercial vessels.

The Pentagon also confirmed its intention of deploying military gear and troops to Saudi Arabia as part measures to countering Iranian moves. The decision to use no less than 500 soldiers had been earlier completed but was openly declared on Friday after the incident on the latest tanker.

On Friday, President Trump noted that a conservative Republican, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.), who usually opposes U.S. military interference in foreign countries, put through a request. Senator Rand Paul request was if he could hold a dialogue with Iranian representatives about reducing tensions between both sides. Mr. Trump approved the request.

The unexpected Iranian move plunged security operatives globally into a day filled with doubt. There are attempts to amend the current situation in which its economy seems to be gradually contracting under the burden of U.S.-led economic sanctions. Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, said “I reason they want to disrupt their current situation. They are not seeking to do what would spine out of control. War is not what they are after,”.

Actions, like seizing tankers, in Iran’s opinion are relative to activities being used against Iran, noted General Ashley at the Aspen Security Forum. Friday’s developments come after Iran’s refusal of the U.S. declaration. The declaration involves the U.S. Navy putting down one of Iran’s drones in the Strait. This news comes a day after numerous close encounters between Iranian military and American warships in the vibrant oil shipping route additionally elevated the tensions between them.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said on Twitter “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else, I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own [drone] by mistake!”

Mr. Trump and top administrative personnel already dismissed those claims. The National security adviser, John Bolton, was quick to add “no question” that the drone put down belongs to Iran, and it posed a threat to U.S. staffs. Senior administrative staff said the Pentagon possesses an “obvious evidence” that drone put down a drone was an Iranian drone. No additional details were provided, and the U.S. had not recovered the drone, confirms a defense official.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump said an amphibious assault vessel, the USS Boxer, engaged in a defensive action against a drone that flew too close. He termed the drone’s approach the newest “of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters.”

Mr. Trump said, “We shot it down.”

U.S. defense representatives said Iran’s drone was put down by a new U.S. system which applies electronic and communications actions in detecting a drone within its presence. The system aids in determining if a drone is hostile.  It has the capability of jamming the signals that link them to their pilot’s remote location, triggering them to crash. The United States will take further action only as a reciprocal measure.

A spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, Abolfazl Shekarchi, was cited by the state-run IRNA news agency on Friday about Iran drone return. Abolfazl Shekarchi stated all drones owned by Iran had returned safely to their stations after completing their “identification and control” mission.

Late Friday, a released tape from Iran’s Guard Corps shows the USS Boxer to prove the drone returned without harm. The alleged event happened at the Strait of Hormuz, as the U.S. Navy sent a fleet of warships through. This event occurred on Thursday in a show of force intended to assure its associates about America’s pledge to the region amidst the widening tensions with Iran. The Strait of Hormuz is a vital shipping route connecting the Persian Gulf, with 1/3 of the world’s oil conveyed through it.

The U.S. blames Iran for the attacks or harassment on commercial ships in recent months. Tehran has continuously denied all allegations. In the past week, Iranian boats attempted blocking a British-flagged tanker but were quickly dispersed by a U.K. warship. The attempts were also dismissed by Iran. A U.S. drone was shot down last month by Iran over the Persian Gulf. Ensuing from the growing threats from Iran, the U.S. in May enhanced its military deployments to the Middle East. The enhancement includes an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force.

Trump’s administration announced on late Friday noted its development of an international force to grow its security and surveillance over the region’s watercourses. The United States Central Command pointed out nations may also escort their flagged ships. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are already backing the plan.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, on a trip to Baghdad in May, suggested a regional nonaggression deal with Gulf Arab states. General support from Russia’s foreign minister has been voiced.

In the past, Iran has harassed U.S. ships who make use of the Persian Gulf. Up until 2017, Iran speedboats for two years regularly crewed with armed Revolutionary Guards. The crew uses rocket launchers and 50 caliber machine guns usually dashed near U.S. vessels to the inside shooting range. Also, spotlights have been directed at American aircraft and ships. In the tensest situations, United States crews shot multiple warning shots.

In 2016, two small United State Navy boats drifted into Iran waters and were detained for 15 hours. They were released subsequently after an exchange of calls between Mr. Zarif and John Kerry, the then U.S. Secretary of State. Additionally, the USS Boxer on Thursday had near encounters with another unarmed Iran helicopter hovering alongside it and an Iran military ship coming as close as 500 yards.