Iran has seized an oil tanker in the waters of the Strait of Hormuz in what is the second such case in the region in a week, as tension with the US continues.
On Wednesday, the US 5th fleet (based in the Middle East) and Iranian media reportedly confirmed that the naval force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) halted a tanker in the crucial waterway.
A video that the 5th Fleet published seemed to reflect about a dozen fast-attack IRGC vessels nearing a tanker identified as the Niovi flying the flag of Panama. The US mentioned that the tanker was compelled to reverse the course into the Iranian territorial waters amid an “unlawful seizure”.
IRNA news agency further confirmed that the ship got seized by the IRGC but refused to add further details.
The Iran-based judiciary’s Mizan news agency has reported that the Tehran prosecutor mentioned the seizure resulted from a judicial order after receiving a plaintiff complaint. The IRGC, however, did not confirm the vessel’s name of the ship or why it had been stopped.
Last week (Thursday), the naval force of Iran’s army also seized yet another oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman in what the 5th Fleet referred to as a violation of international laws and a threat to the overall maritime security and world economy.
Iran, however, mentioned that the Chinese-owned and Turkish-operated tanker Advantage Sweet, sailing for Houston in Texas loaded with Kuwaiti crude oil for US energy major Chevron Corp, had collided with an Iranian vessel, leaving several crew members missing and injured.
Iran had added that the Advantage Sweet, with its almost two dozen crew members from India, had moved via the Strait of Hormuz and fled the scene irrespective of repeated warnings.
Western media has reported that the vessel seizure had come in as a response to the seizure of an oil tanker by the US days earlier to enable its unilateral sanctions placed on Tehran.
Late on Wednesday, the US called on Iran to set the vessel free.
The vessel harassments in Iran and interference with maritime rights in the regional and international waters are contrary to international laws and disruptive to regional stability and security, Vedant Patel, the spokesperson of the State Department, mentioned.
He said he would join the international community in calling the government of Iran and Iran’s navy to set the ship free along with its crew members immediately.
Washington and Tehran have engaged in such tit-for-tat moves earlier, with the US trying to seize a cargo of Iran’s oil close to Greece in 2022, prompting Iran to confiscate two Greek tankers and hold them for several months. The Supreme Court based in Greece ordered the cargo to be returned to Iran, and the Greek vessels were released.
The US has levied the harshest sanctions on Iran since 2018 when it abandoned a 2015 nuclear power deal unilaterally with world powers that placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.
The seizure on Wednesday came through as Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s President, reached Damascus for a two-day trip and met Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in what Tehran called a “strategic victory” amid US political failures.
References: Quartz, Reuters, Aljazeera
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