Mon | Aug 19, 2019

Iran’s seizure of UK tanker in Gulf seen as escalation

Published:Saturday | July 20, 2019 | 12:16 AM

LONDON, England (AP):

Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker on Friday and briefly detained a second vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, intensifying tensions in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West.

The seizing of the British tanker marked perhaps the most significant escalation since tensions between Iran and the West began rising in May. At that time, the US announced that it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran.

The ongoing showdown has caused jitters around the globe, with each manoeuvre bringing fear that any misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war.

Iran reported yesterday that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz because it was not complying with “international maritime laws and regulations”, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declared.

A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the seized tanker, said it was unable to make contact with the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in international waters.

The company said the tanker had 23 crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian, and Filipino nationalities, and there were no reports that any of them had been injured.

The UK has featured prominently in the recent tensions with Iran. Britain’s Royal Marines assisted in the seizure of an Iranian oil supertanker on July 4 by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain.

Britain said it would release the vessel if Iran could prove it was not breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.