Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Iran’s military seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz Friday, the second vessel it has apprehended in as many days.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement to Press TV, a state media outlet, that the Stena Impero was confiscated “at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules,” adding that the vessel was being transferred to the Iranian coast for subsequent legal proceedings.

The owner and ship manager of the tanker confirmed in a statement that the Stena Impero had been confiscated “by unidentified small crafts and a small helicopter” in the strait, though it maintained that the vessel was in international waters.

The statement added that Northern Marine Management and shipping firm Stena Bulk are unable to contact the ship, which currently holds a crew of 23, and that no injuries have been reported.

The Strait of Hormuz, through which passes about a third of all oil traded by sea, has emerged as a key focal point amid escalating tensions in the region.

Iranian state TV reported Thursday that Revolutionary Guard forces seized an oil tanker flying under the Panamanian flag last weekend, saying it was smuggling about 264,000 gallons of oil.

Britain also said earlier this month that it had apprehended an Iranian oil tanker off the southern coast of Spain for attempting to transport oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Friday’s seizure comes as European signatories to an Obama-era nuclear deal scramble to persuade Tehran to reverse its recent efforts to enrich uranium beyond the pact’s limits. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2018, though international observers said Iran had stayed within the deal’s limits until recently.

The uranium enrichment has further strained an already dire relationship between Washington and Tehran, with Trump telling reporters last week that Iran is “treading on very dangerous territory” and “better be careful.”

The rising tensions have at times produced shows of force — Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone last month, while the USS Boxer said it destroyed an Iranian drone Thursday, which Iran denies.

Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron Friday to discuss efforts to tamp down on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and “destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.”