by WorldTribune Staff, July 18, 2019
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on July 14 seized a foreign tanker with 12 crew members on board in the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian state media reported.
“With a capacity of 2 million barrels and 12 foreign crew on board, the vessel was en route to deliver contraband fuel received from Iranian boats to foreign ships in farther regions when it was intercepted,” the IRGC’s Sepahnews website claimed.
TankerTrackers, a cargo-shipment-tracking service, identified the vessel that was towed by Iran as the MT Riah, a Panamanian-flagged ship owned by the United Arab Emirates.
TankerTrackers said the MT Riah had crossed into Iranian waters on July 14 and that its last known position was off Qeshm Island in the Strait of Hormuz.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said on July 17 that Iran towed a vessel into an Iranian harbor after it suffered a technical malfunction. He did not identify the ship.
The United States said that the vessel was from the United Arab Emirates and that its crew had not been in contact with its owner since its transponder was turned off on July 13. A U.S. defense official also told the Associated Press that Washington had “suspicions” that Iran had seized the vessel.
Britain seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 over allegations that it was breaking European Union sanctions by attempting to ship oil to Syria. Iran has called for Britain to release the tanker and has threatened to seize British ships in retaliation.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Great Britain of “piracy” after the Royal Marines seized a supertanker believed to be carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria on July 5.
Khamenei called for the immediate release of the oil tanker Grace 1. In a TV speech, the ayatollah said: “Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship and gives it a legal appearance. Iran and those who believe in our system will not leave such vicious deeds unanswered.”
Israeli Blue and White party chairman and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said the IRGC’s seizure of the taker a “wake up” call for Europe.
“As the world stands silent in the face of Iran’s aggression, the regime picks up the pace,” Gantz said in a statement on July 18.
“There are times when things must be forcefully stopped in their tracks. This is one of those times,” Gantz said. “The Iranians have to know that Israel can and will defend itself. The rest of the world needs to send a similar signal.”