Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, which reportedly prevented Iranian interception of the oil tanker British Heritage on Wednesday (Mick Storey/EPA)
Iran’s forces have failed to intercept a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, according to UK and US officials.
A UK Government statement said, “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.”
A UK warship, HMS Montrose, was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away”.
The Government concluded, “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
US defense officials said the attempted interception was at the northern entrance of the strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which 1/6th of the world’s oil passes:
The Royal Navy HMS Montrose…pointed it(s) guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed….
It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards denied that they tried to stop the British tanker:
The IRGC Navy’s patrols in the Persian Gulf are being carried out according to routine methods and ordered missions with smartness, precision, and power.
Over the last 24 hours there have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including British vessels.
Tehran’s political and military leaders have said they would respond to last Thursday’s boarding and seizure of an Iranian supertanker by UK Marines and Gibraltarian police at the mouth of the Mediterranean.
The UK Government said the Grace 1, with up to two million barrels of oil, was in Gibraltar’s waters and violating European Union sanctions on oil deliveries to the Assad regime in Syria. Iran denies the supertanker, which took the long route around the southern tip of Africa, was en route to the Syrian port of Baniyas.
On Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned London over the “very cheap and wrong” seizure: “I remind the Britons. You are the ones initiating insecurity, and will come to realize its consequences in the future.”
Mohsen Rezaei, Secretary of the Expediency Council and former Revolutionary Guards commander, said last Friday, “If England does not release the Iranian oil tanker, the duty…is to respond and seize one English oil tanker.”
Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hamati echoed, “This is an incorrect and wrong action, an action similar to maritime robbery….Certainly these kind of robberies will not be tolerated.”
Last month, as tensions escalated between the US and Iran, two tankers were attacked with explosives in the Gulf of Aden near the Strait of Hormuz. The following week, the Revolutionary Guards downed a US drone, claiming it was over Iranian waters. The incident led to Donald Trump’s endorsement of airstrikes on Iranian radar and anti-aircraft positions, but he quickly reversed his approval as US planes and ships were four hours from their attacks.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Leader’s top military aide Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, told an audience in Tehran:
We downed an unnamed American aircraft in our territorial waters and America couldn’t do anything about it.
The Iranian nation is a nation of peace and wants both the region and the world to be secure. However, if the enemy ever attacks us, our firm response will make them regret it.