The UK and the US have claimed armed Iranian military boats have approached a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf requesting the vessel to change course, but were scared off by a UK warship. Iran has denied the claims.
The incident happened on Wednesday when the tanker British Heritage was sailing through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, London said. The boats, apparently belonging to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, allegedly requested the British vessel to change course and enter Iranian territorial waters.
However, after a ‘verbal’ warning from a Royal Navy frigate, the boats backed away and let the tanker pass. Unnamed US officials were the first to report the alleged incident to CNN and Reuters. The UK Ministry of Defense has yet to comment on the reports that claimed the entire incident was filmed by US aircraft.
The report named the warship as HMS Montrose, a British frigate last seen escorting the tanker Pacific Voyager to the UAE port of Fujairah on Monday.
The BP-operated Heritage was bound for Basra in Iraq, but made an abrupt U-turn in the Persian Gulf on July 6, after Royal Marines had seized a Panamanian-flagged tanker carrying Iranian oil off Gibraltar. The British tanker was last reported sheltering in Saudi waters out of fear of a possible Iranian reprisal.
Just on Tuesday, the US announced it was looking to put together a maritime “coalition” that would “ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said the US is in contact with “a number of countries” to see which ones “have the political will” to support the initiative.
Previously, Washington had accused Iran of being behind mysterious attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as two other vessels in the Persian Gulf. Tehran denied the accusations, and even the countries whose ships were damaged were likewise not convinced.
But with the Pentagon’s announcement it will “build a global consensus” against Tehran and the calls for a maritime coalition, a pretext for eventual war with Iran could be just a matter of time.