Iran said on Thursday that its Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy had seized on Sunday a foreign oil tanker at Lark Island in the Strait of Hormuz, claiming that the vessel was loaded with 1 million liters of smuggled fuel from Iran.
According to a statement from IRGC Navy’s carried by Iranian Fars news agency, “the ship was seized in a surprise action last Sunday during control operations and monitoring the vessels crossing the Persian Gulf with judiciary coordination and decree South of Lark Island after the IRGC was assured that it was carrying smuggled fuel which amounted to 1mln liters.”
At the same time, the IRGC “denied claims that it has seized any other foreign ship as claimed by the foreign media in the last several days, reiterating that the ship with smuggled fuel has been the only one seized by the IRGC Navy.”
The statement from Iran comes days after CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported late on Monday that the U.S. intelligence increasingly believes that a United Arab Emirates (UAE) tanker may have been forced into Iranian waters by naval forces of Iran’s IRGC.
Iran has not yet revealed details about the tanker seized on Sunday, either its name or flag or owner country, and early reports haven’t confirmed if the detained vessel was the Riah, which Iran claimed it towed to safety after it experienced mechanical faults.
The Riah went dark on Sunday as it entered the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s vital oil transit chokepoint, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to block and where several incidents have taken place over the past weeks.
Apart from the months-long heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran, tensions between the UK and Iran quickly escalated earlier this month after Gibraltar, assisted by Royal Marines, detained an Iranian super tanker carrying crude suspected of going to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Tehran threatened to seize a UK-flagged vessel in retaliation, and last week tried to block a British-flagged oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz.
The UK is seeking to de-escalate and offered to facilitate the release of the Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar if Iran gave guarantees that the crude loaded on that vessel wasn’t bound for Syria, the UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said this past weekend.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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