Iran seizes foreign oil tanker: state TV | News | DW | 18.07.2019
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Iran seizes foreign oil tanker: state TV

Iran's Revolutionary Guard told state TV the foreign tanker was smuggling fuel through the Persian Gulf. Recent incidents involving vessels in the region have led to escalating tensions between Tehran and the West.

Revolutionary Guard forces have seized a foreign oil tanker with a crew of 12 accused of smuggling oil in the Persian Gulf, Iranian state TV reported Thursday.

The report did not identify the vessel or say which country the detained crew members were from. 

Tensions have mounted in the region following attacks on several commercial oil tankers in the Gulf.

Relations between Tehran and the US have also deteriorated significantly since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed tough sanctions that have hit Iran's oil exports.

Read moreOpinion: Iran's calculated escalation in the Persian Gulf

State TV said the vessel was intercepted Sunday near Larak Island in the Strait of Hormuz after it sent out a distress call. It was "later seized with the order from the court" after it was found to be carrying around a million liters of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers, the Revolutionary Guard said in a statement quoted by the broadcaster.

UAE-originated tanker?

The strategically important strait is used to transport one-third of the world's seaborne oil supply from energy-rich Middle East states.

Read moreStrait of Hormuz: The world's most important oil choke point

Watch video 02:56

Gulf tanker incident 'quite a seismic escalation'

News of the seizure comes days after a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates stopped transmitting its location in Iranian waters.

A US defense official cited by The Associated Press said Washington suspected the vessel had been impounded by Iran when its signal disappeared in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday. An Emirati official told AP the oil tanker hadn't sent out a distress call before its tracker was switched off.

"On Saturday, the United Arab Emirates reported that one of the oil tankers, which had left Dubai's port, suddenly disappeared, and a day later Iran apparently seized an oil tanker in the Iranian waters. Although, it is not clear whether it is the same tanker, there was only one tanker reportedly missing, and it seems it is the same tanker, Houshang Hassanyari, a political analyst at the Royal Military College of Canada, told DW's Farsi Service.

'Tehran achieving its goal'

The US has said it would increase its military presence in the region in an effort to monitor Iranian activities.

In recent months, four foreign tankers were attacked in the Gulf in acts of sabotage that Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran denied it was involved in the incidents. Britain also said Iranian boats had attempted to "impede the passage" of one of its vessels in Gulf waters.

After Iran shot down a US surveillance drone near the strait in June, Trump ordered airstrikes against Iran, only to call them off at the last minute.

"The tanker seizure will increase tension in the Persian Gulf region. More importantly, it will make maritime transportation even more dangerous there," said Hassanyari.

"I believe this is exactly what the Islamic Republic wants to achieve. Tehran had threatened that if it cannot export its oil to the international market through the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, it will not let others to do it as well. If foreign countries decide not to use the Strait of Hormuz, the Revolutionary Guard will achieve its goal without closing the strait," he added.

Watch video 01:41

Britain says Iranian boats tried to block tanker in Gulf

shs, nm/amp (Reuters, dpa)

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