The Iranian Revolutionary Guard tried, unsuccessfully, to take control of a British oil tanker on Wednesday, before they were foiled by a British warship.
Here’s what we know
On Wednesday, the oil tanker British Heritage, which is owned by energy giant BP, was traveling through the Persian Gulf when it was approached by three Iranian gunboats. These gunboats attempted to get the British Heritage to stop before it could leave the gulf. According to the BBC, the British Heritage was not in Iranian waters at the time.
But, thankfully for its crew, the tanker had a powerful escort: the Royal Navy ship HMS Montrose which had been following at a distance of about five miles. The three Iranian gunboats backed off after the Montrose moved itself in between them and the tanker.
Iran has denied that the incident ever happened, with the country’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claiming that the U.K. made up the entire thing for the sake of “creating tension.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused the U.K. of being “scared” on Wednesday, due to its use of warships like the Montrose to escort its oil tankers as they pass near Iran.
But the U.K. is taking precautions, particularly since just a week ago a member of the Iranian Supreme Leader’s council warned that a British oil tanker would be seized by Iran if an Iranian tanker seized by the U.K. on July 4 was not released. The U.K. had taken control of the tanker Grace 1 after suspecting it of violating sanctions and bringing oil to war-torn Syria.
In a statement, U.K. Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt said, “The UK government is concerned by this action and we urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation.”