Iran continues to harass oil shipping in the Strait of Hormuz as part of its two month long operations seemingly aimed at disrupting global confidence in the safety of the passage which sees some 20% of global oil cargo moving through it.
On July 20th, the Iranian military boarded and seized a British-flagged oil tanker claiming it had violated maritime law by shutting off its GPS, travelling through the exit point of the Strait rather than the entrance, and in ignoring warnings to correct these issues. No British citizens were part of the crew. The ship had been surrounded by four Iranian ships and was boarded by fast rope from a helicopter.
Great Britain responded with stern words indicating there will be "serious consequences" if Iran does not release the tanker. The location of the vessel, the Stena Impero, is unknown though British officials report the crew are safe and unharmed.
The Iranian action follows a tense week with Western powers as the U.S. Marines destroyed an Iranian drone on the 18th by jamming its navigation signal after it had closed to 1,000 yards of the U.S.S. Boxer, an amphibious assault ship.
But it is largely understood that Iran’s capture of the British tanker is in direct response to the British seizure of the oil tanker Grace 1 on July 4th as they suspected it was carrying embargoed Iranian oil to Syria.
The Recent History
The two month long conflict began when four oil tankers were attacked in what was called an act of “sabotage” in the Gulf of Oman on May 12th. At least one of those was carrying supply fuel to the United States to supply Saudi Aramco clients. Iran is believed to be behind those attacks.
On June 12th, the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet operating in the Gulf of Oman received two separate distress calls the night of June 12th from oil tankers that were on fire after being attacked.
The next day, U.S. Central Command released evidence which clearly proved Iran was responsible.
On June 20th, Iran shot down a U.S. drone in the Strait of Hormuz claiming it had violated Iranian airspace. The U.S. denies that accusation.
On June 21st, it was announced that President Trump called off a military air strike against Iran stating he was unaware of the potential causalities in that nation when the plan was first prepared.
July 1st, Iran announced it had exceeded the cap on nuclear enrichment outlined in the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, cancelled by the Trump administration, yet still honored by other foreign powers.
Iran’s actions are seemingly aimed at harassing nations back to the negotiating table to alleviate crippling economic sanctions resulting from Iran’s nuclear weapons programs.