Iran's Revolutionary Guards seizes 'foreign tanker' accused of 'smuggling oil'

Iran's Revolutionary Guards seizes 'foreign tanker' accused of 'smuggling oil'
The capture of the tanker is the latest in a series of incidents that have seen tensions with the regional power rise.
2 min read
18 July, 2019
The tanker may be a Panamanian-flagged ship suspected to have been captured days ago [AFP]
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil, the country's state TV reported on Thursday.

The tanker and 12 crew members were reportedly apprehended on Sunday and were allegedly involved in smuggling around 1 million litres of oil to "foreign customers", the Guards said.

The Revolutionary Guard forces did not identify the tanker.

MT Riah, a Panamian-flagged oil tanker based in the UAE, stopped transmitting its location overnight on Sunday near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guards base on it.

The US on Tuesday said it had "suspicions" that Iran had seized the tanker.

The capture of the tanker is the latest incident concerning Iranian oil transfers in recent weeks as tensions rise between the Islamic Republic and the US, UK and Gulf states.

The UK defence ministry said on Tuesday it would dispatch a third warship to the Gulf after warship HMS Montrose last week warned off three Iranian gunboats.

UK officials said were trying to "impede" the progress of a British supertanker through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz episode, subsequently denied by Iran, occurred a week after UK Royal Marines helped the Gibraltar authorities detain an Iranian tanker that Washington believes was trying to deliver oil to Syria in violation of both EU and US sanctions.

Iran has bristled at the arrest and issued a series of warnings to both the US and UK about its right to take unspecified actions in reprisal.

Tensions have been escalating in the region over the past few months, with US President Donald Trump last month at the last minute calling of an air strike on Iran over its downing of an American spy drone.

A series of sabotage attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf that Saudi Arabia and Iran blamed on Tehran, and drone attacks on a Saudi oil pipeline directed by the Iran-linked Houthi rebels, have also contributed to fears over regional relations.