The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seized another oil tanker last week in the Gulf of Oman just a week after it took over another tanker in what was seen as retaliation after the U.S. seized an Iranian oil ship.
The latest seizure involved a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker, Niovi. Reports said a dozen quick-attack boats from Iran targeted the ship. The U.S. Navy said the smaller boats “forced the oil tanker to reverse course and head toward Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran.”
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible, and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.
The Financial Times noted that the U.S. has been targeting Iran’s oil exports since 2018, after former President Donald Trump exited the Obama-era nuke deal. The report said oil analysts believe the U.S. could be loosening enforcement to help keep energy prices down.
Two weeks ago, Iranian forces took over a tanker called Advantage Sweet, which was hauling Kuwaiti crude oil for Chevron and was headed to Houston.
The AP, citing IRNA, Iran’s state-operated news agency, reported at the time that an unknown ship “collided with an Iranian vessel last night in the Persian Gulf, causing several Iranian crew members to go missing and get injured.”
“We repeatedly called on the vessel to stop so we can conduct a more comprehensive investigation, but there was no cooperation,” Mostafa Tajodini, deputy for operations at the Iranian navy, told state media, according to Al Jazeera.
This operation was believed to be in direct response to the U.S. confiscation of an Iranian oil tanker on 28 April. Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said the U.S. forces seized a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker called Suez Rajan.
TRENDPOST: Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are high as we have reported in recent Trends Journals. (See “U.S. SENDS BUNKER BUSTING BOMBS TO ‘DETER’ IRAN” 2 May 2023, “ISRAEL PUSHING U.S. TO FIGHT IRAN” 18 Apr 2023, and “MILLEY: U.S. NEEDS TO BE TARGETING IRANIAN FORCES ‘VERY HARSHLY’” 4 Apr 2023.)
The FT noted that “lawmakers” in Congress want the Biden administration to take a tougher stance against Iran when it takes provocative actions in the Gulf of Oman.
This is not the first time the U.S. and Iran have been caught in something of a high-seas tit-for-tat.
The Al Jazeera report noted that U.S. forces tried last year to seize an Iranian oil tanker near Greece. Iran, in response, seized two Greece-flagged tankers and held them for months, until Athens’s High Court ordered the cargo returned to Iran.
At that point, the Greek vessels were also released, the report said.