Armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Arab Gulf.
The British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by boats from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials. A US aircraft was overhead and recorded video of the incident.
A British Ministry of Defense said that it “appeared that the Iranian vessels were trying to divert the Heritage from international to Iranian waters” before the British Navy ship HMS Montrose “got between them and issued a verbal warning to withdraw.”
In a statement, the UK’s Ministry of Defense said that “contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.”
“HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the statement said. “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
The navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps has denied claims it tried to seize the tanker, Iranian news agencies reported. IRGC’s navy said there had been no confrontation with any foreign vessels in the past 24 hours.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the UK made the claims “for creating tension”.
“These claims have no value,” Mr Zarif added, according to the Fars news agency.
Iran’s military warned it would retaliate in response to the seizure of one of its tankers by British forces in Gibraltar last week, while several European foreign ministers urged Tehran to return immediately to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
“This move will not remain without response,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.
Mr. Bagheri didn’t say how his country would respond, but his warning came days after another senior Iranian official tweeted that Iran should impound a British tanker if the vessel carrying Iranian oil wasn’t released immediately.
Iranian officials have lashed out against the U.K. after British Royal Marines assisted Gibraltar in detaining an oil tanker that was allegedly bound for Syria in suspected violation of European Union sanctions. Tehran has denied that the tanker was headed to Syria and called its seizure illegal because Iran isn’t subject to a European oil embargo.
Iran’s bellicose rhetoric adds another layer to the drama unfolding around Tehran’s breaches of limits of the nuclear agreement, from which the Trump administration withdrew last year.
The UK is stepping up its military presence in the Gulf by sending a second warship to the region to protect British commercial oil tankers, the Ministry of Defence has said.
The HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, will be deployed within days after it completed a course of Nato exercises in the Baltic Sea with the aim to be in the Gulf region by next week.
The ship will work alongside the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Montrose and US Gulf allies, but will not participate in Washington’s proposed global maritime coalition to protect shipping in the area.
HMS Duncan was due to have taken over from HMS Montrose, but for a fixed period the two ships will instead work alongside one another.
Experts and observers warned of the consequences of the escalation and ignite a fierce war, with increasing tension and hostile rhetoric between Iran and the United States, and after the recent attempt of the Revolutionary Guards to try to detain a British tanker, and before targeting tankers on the coast of the UAE.
While the Times saw that Iran was knocking the drums of war in order to obtain concessions from Western countries.
Iran, under pressure from economic sanctions, is convinced it has the ability to influence the West in two ways: the first is pushing toward the threshold of war by blocking international trade in the Strait of Hormuz, either through operations carried out by the Revolutionary Guard or Iran’s many agents.
The second method of influence has become clear beyond the limit of uranium enrichment allowed under the nuclear deal with the superpowers in 2015.
According to Iran’s official at the International Crisis Group in Washington, Ali Wazid, in newspaper statements, that the possibility of a confrontation, even without provocative work, is “high.”
He considered «preacher» that the fact that each party believes that the other does not want war increases the risk of confrontation, as there is a margin for errors of interpretation, especially in the absence of channels of communication between the parties.
Iranian political analyst Majid Mohammadi believes that continued targeting of oil tankers threatens an international war against Iran through an international coalition led by the United States and its allies against Tehran.
“Given the power of the US Navy, Iran will not be able to damage the US Navy,” Majid Mohammadi said in an article published by Iran International. The scenario of deterrence depends on military strikes on Iran’s oil facilities, which is a strong radar.
He added that the scenario of a comprehensive war is one of the scenarios put forward, but this war will not be on the ground, it will be a targeted strikes to infrastructure facilities and barracks and missile and nuclear centers to Tehran and the result will be devastating to Malalis.