(MEMO) — Iran said Sunday it has seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf for allegedly smuggling fuel, according to the official IRNA news agency.
In a statement, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said the vessel was captured near the Farsi Island. The tanker was carrying 700,000 liters of “smuggled fuel” and was taken to the Bushehr port, the IRGC statement said.
It remains unclear the nationality of the seized vessel. Seven crewmen of different nationalities were detained.
“The seizure of the oil tanker was in coordination with Iran’s judiciary authorities and based on their order,” Fars quoted him as he as saying.
Tensions have risen between Iran and the West since last year when the United States pulled out of an international agreement which curbed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.
Fears of a Middle East war with global repercussions have risen since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and revived a panoply of sanctions meant to push Tehran into wider security concessions.
Iran has retaliated by resuming uranium enrichment seen in the West as a potential conduit to developing an atom bomb. But it faces severe economic damage under intensified US sanctions designed to strangle its vital oil trade.
After several attacks in May and June on oil tankers – blamed by Washington on Tehran, which denied responsibility – Trump has been trying to forge a military coalition to secure Gulf waters, though European allies have been loath to join for fear of provoking open conflict.
European parties to the deal – Britain, France and Germany – have instead appealed for diplomatic moves to defuse the crisis and have been trying to salvage the pact by exploring ways to shield Iran’s economy from US sanctions.
Tehran has called on them to accelerate their efforts or it will further decrease its commitments to the agreement.
Britain said on July 25 that it had started sending a warship to accompany all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.
By Middle East Monitor | MiddleEastMonitor.com