The British government has threatened Iran of ‘serious consequences’ if the Islamic republic did not release the British oil tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. Reacting angrily, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the situation was ‘completely unacceptable’ and ‘freedom of navigation must be maintained.’
He said, “We are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences.” He, however, made it clear that his government was not contemplating ‘military options.’ He added, “We are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve this situation but we are very clear that it must be resolved.”
BBC quoted a government spokesperson as saying, the British government was ‘deeply concerned about Iran’s unacceptable actions’ adding that the recent developments ‘represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation.’ The spokesperson added, “We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.”
The situation in the Gulf took an ugly turn on Friday evening after Iran reportedly seized second British oil tanker. This was after the owner of the oil tanker on Friday reported that they had been unable to contact their vessel, which had 23 personnel on board and was ‘heading north towards Iran.’ Although the oil tanker in question was owned by a British company, none of those present on the vessel was a British national.
Taking a dim view of Friday’s development, the British government’s emergency committee, Cobra, met twice on Friday to discuss the incident.
Meanwhile, London’s Sky News reported that the United States was sending forces including fighter aircraft, air defence missiles and likely more than 500 troops to a Saudi Arabia airbase.
The Pentagon said that following heightened tensions in Iran, the acting US defence secretary authorised the deployment of additional resources. The latest move has been planned as an ‘additional deterrent’ in the face of ’emergent, credible threats.’
What made the matter worse on Friday was Iran’s decision to briefly capture a second tanker, the Mesdar, which is Liberian-flagged but British operated. It was, however, allowed to go after some time.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard-affiliated news agency said the tanker was seized for breaking three regulations: shutting down its GPS; going through the exit of the Strait of Hormuz rather than the entrance, and ignoring warnings.
Tensions between the UK and Iran escalated on 4 July when the British Royal Marines captured an Iranian tanker which was suspected of carrying oil bound for Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Iran reacted swiftly and threatened to seize a British oil tanker in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that his country had destroyed an Iranian drone in the Gulf after Iran shot down an American military drone in the area in June. He, however, did not release any evidence to substantiate his claims.