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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 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported late on Monday.
“CNN has learned: US intel increasingly believes UAE tanker MT RIAH forced into Iranian waters over the weekend by #IRGC naval forces,” Starr tweeted.
The UAE is not sharing information, while some Gulf sources told CNN that the UAE vessel had simply broken down and has been towed by Iran, the CNN correspondent says.
The U.S., however, says that there is no contact with the crew of the UAE ship, whose last known location was at Qesham Island, CNN’s Starr reports.
The incident, if it happened the way the U.S. intelligence is reportedly inclined to believe, would be the latest skirmish in waters in the Middle East in recent weeks.
In May and June, two separate apparent attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz stoked tensions in the area, which intensified with Iran shooting down a U.S. drone over the vital oil shipping lane.
In early July, Gibraltar, assisted by Royal Marines, detained a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria because it had “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Iranian ship Grace 1 was violating European Union sanctions against Syria.
Shipping data that Reuters has reviewed suggests that the tanker en route to Syria was loaded with Iranian oil off the Iranian coast.
If the tanker indeed loaded oil from Iran, it was not only in breach of EU sanctions on the Syrian entity owning the refinery believed to be the destination of the oil, but it also violated the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
Tensions between the UK and Iran quickly escalated after the seizure of the Iranian tanker, with Tehran threatening to seize a UK-flagged vessel, and last week trying to block a British-flagged oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.