Iranian naval craft unsuccessfully attempted to seize a British flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, it has emerged.
The tanker ‘British Heritage’ was reportedly 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.
It is understood that the Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters.
Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose had been escorting the tanker and it has been reported that the British warship ‘pointed its guns at the Iranian boats’ in order to deter the seizure.
The Iranian boats then reportedly withdrew after HMS Montrose warned them to move away.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence 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. We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
The incident comes after Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar for trying to take oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
Earlier in the month, the Gibraltar government (Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory) said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying crude oil to the Baniyas refinery in Syria.
“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.
“With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.”
Mohsen Rezai, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Twitter:
انقلاب اسلامی در طول تاریخ چهل ساله خود، در هیچ معرکهای آغازگر تنش نبوده، اما در پاسخ به زورگویان و گردنکشان، تعلل نکرده و تردید به دل راه نداده است. انگلیس اگر #نفتکش_ایرانی را رفع توقیف نکند، وظیفه دستگاههای مسئول، اقدام متقابل و توقیف یک نفتکش انگلیسی است.
— محسن رضایی (@ir_rezaee) July 5, 2019
Roughly translated, this means:
“If the UK doesn’t return the Iranian tanker, the duty of responsible bodies is to seize a British oil tanker in a retaliatory measure.”
The UK has a naval base, a Frigate, and other naval vessels in the region.
Last month we reported that the Government had “no plans” to send Royal Marines to protect shipping in the Gulf.
Attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz had already ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf in recent weeks, this latest event is surely set to increase them.