After UK seizure of Iranian tanker, ex-official says Iran should seize an ‘English tanker’ in response

Iranian and US flags side by side

On 4 July, Royal Marines helped to seize an Iranian oil tanker heading to Syria in order to enforce European sanctions on the war-torn country. Now, a former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) says his country should seize a British tanker in response.

Rezaei, who led the IRGC during the 1980s “tanker war” in the Gulf, said: “If England does not release the Iranian oil tanker, the duty… (of Iran) is to respond and seize one English oil tanker.”

A US request?

The warning came after Britain’s ambassador in Tehran, Rob Macaire, was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to explain the government’s actions.

Spanish authorities, meanwhile, have claimed that the seizure of the tanker was made at the request of the United States which had been tracking its movements.

Gibraltar’s government said in a statement that: “There has been no political request at any time from any government that the Gibraltar government should act or not act, on one basis or another… The decisions of Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar were taken totally independently, based on breaches of existing law and not at all based on extraneous political considerations.”

A spokesman said members of the crew were continuing to be questioned as inquiries continued aboard the ship. The 28 crew members – mainly Indian, Pakistani and Ukrainian nationals – were being interviewed as witnesses and were not being questioned under criminal procedures the spokesman added.

The crisis caused by Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal continues

The incident has occurred at a time of heightened tensions between the West and Iran following Donald Trump’s 2018 exit from the Iran nuclear deal. Since this withdrawal, the US has sought to put pressure on Iran via sanctions and military threats.

Iran has announced that, in response to Trump’s exit from the 2015 deal, it has surpassed the agreement’s limit for stockpiling low-enriched uranium. This move was seen as an attempt to put pressure on the European signatories – Britain, France and Germany – to persuade the US to lift its sanctions, which are crippling the Iranian economy.

The three EU powers still support the deal – which was supposed to lift international sanctions in return for Iran curtailing its nuclear activities. In practice however, they have been unable to get round US sanctions which were re-imposed by Trump after he unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 agreement.

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