British Navy foils Iranian attempt to seize tanker
Britain urged Iran to "de-escalate the situation in the region" after the British Heritage, a Suezmax oil tanker operated by BP under an Isle of Man flag, was approached.
A Royal Navy warship on Wednesday prevented Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel in small boats from stopping and boarding a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, according to U.S. and British officials.
They said several small boats approached the tanker British Heritage near the northern entrance to the narrow Persian Gulf strait, one of the world’s most strategic maritime chokepoints.
The United States blames Iran for a series of attacks on shipping in the world's most important oil artery since mid-May, accusations Tehran rejects but which have raised fears the long-time foes could slip into direct military conflict.
The growing confrontation between Iran and the West took another twist last week when British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker, the Grace 1, off Gibraltar on suspicion that it was breaking EU sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
A senior Iranian military commander on Thursday said Britain and the United States would regret detaining the vessel, just days after the armed forces chief of staff said the action would not go unanswered.
The United States is hoping to enlist allies in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday.
Britain, France and Germany have sought to avoid being dragged into U.S. sanctions but say Iran must return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal they were instrumental in brokering.
They have so far avoided triggering a dispute resolution process contained in the deal but it could take new steps in the next two months, including restarting dismantled centrifuges and purifying uranium to a sharply higher threshold, unless it is allow to resume normal oil sales.