Global Tensions Mount Over Iran’s Seizure of British Oil Tanker

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div>VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

WHITE HOUSE – Global tensions continue to mount over Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, with Britain issuing a stern warning to Tehran and the Islamic Republic maintaining the seizure was a “reciprocal” move.   

Britain’s Foreign Office said Saturday it summoned Iran’s Charge d’Affaires in London, one day after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Tehran “may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior” and warned Britain’s “reaction will be considered but robust.”

Iran’s powerful Guardian Council said Saturday the seizure was in response to Britain’s participation in the capture two weeks ago of an Iranian oil tanker transporting more than 2 million gallons of Iranian crude oil near the British territory of Gibraltar on Spain’s southern coast.

Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei told Iran’s Fars News Agency “the rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law” and that Iran’s seizure was justifiable given “the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers.”

U.S. President Donald Trump declared after Iran’s Friday seizure that Iran is “nothing but trouble” and said the U.S. will “be working with the U.K.” In response to a question from VOA on the White House South Lawn, Trump said “We have no written agreement [with the British], but I think we have an agreement that is long-standing.”

Germany called for the release of the Swedish-owned, British-flagged Stena Impero, with its foreign ministry declaring Iran’s seizure was a “dangerous further aggravation of an already tense situation.”

France also called on Iran to release the vessel, saying the seizure “hampers a necessary de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf region.”
Iran’s maritime authorities had requested the capture of the Stena Impero for “not following international maritime regulations,” according to the guard corps, which is a branch of the Iranian armed forces.

Personnel on board

The owners of the Stena Impero, which was heading to Saudi Arabia, say they have been unable to contact their vessel, with 23 personnel on board, which was “heading north towards Iran” after being approached by “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” in the strait.

Drone shot down

Earlier Friday, Trump expressed confidence an Iranian drone was downed Thursday in the strait as it approached a U.S. warship.

“No doubt about it. No. We shot it down,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

“There’s no question that this was an Iranian drone,” Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, chimed in. “The USS Boxer took it out as the president announced yesterday because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew. It was entirely the right thing to do.”

Asked  before news of the seizure of the oil tankers became public — if he was worried about a broader clash with Iran in the Strait, Trump replied he was not.

“We hope for their sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do, they will pay a price like nobody’s ever paid a price.”

VOA later asked Trump if seizing the tankers was foolish, but he declined to answer specifically.

Speaking Friday at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado, U.S. Defense Intelligence Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said Iran is at what he described as an inflection point due to ongoing economic strife as a result of U.S. sanctions.

“What you see is an attempt to break that status quo,” Asley said.

“We saw this coming a couple of weeks out,” he told the audience, adding that while Tehran does not want war, “there’s always the possibility of miscalculation.”

A senior administration official, earlier Friday, told reporters it is anticipated that the Defense Department will release video evidence of the drone shootdown.

Iran is denying the United States military shot down one of its drones.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi posted on Twitter, adding he is “worried” the U.S. amphibious assault ship had shot down an American military drone “by mistake.”

“The Iranians don’t have a great history with the truth,” responded a senior U.S. official to the assertion from Tehran. “They have a 40-year history of provoking us.”


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