Iran Briefly Seizes Oil Tanker Near Strait of Hormuz

Clay Curtis
August 14, 2020

© Provided by Associated Press In this image made from video released by the US military's Central Command, Iranian commandos fast-rope down from a helicopter onto the MV Wila oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.

Private maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global said it suspected two other ships had been harassed by Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in the Persian Gulf over the last week as well, based on the ships' behavior.

Washington has captured four Iranian cargo vessels on the high seas, taking hold of several fuel tankers on their way to Venezuela "without the use of military force", the Wall Street Journal reported, citing United States officials.

The official said there was no distress signal from the ship and that the USA "was not taking any action".

Tension in the region peaked when the United Kingdom seized an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar last July, prompting Iran to retaliate by seizing a British-flagged ship.

United States military authorities did not use any factor for Iran taking the vessel, while Iranian state media and authorities did not instantly acknowledge the seizure or deal descriptions.

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US prosecutors filed a lawsuit in July to seize the gasoline aboard the four tankers, and a judge subsequently issued a warrant for seizure.

The Wila was previously moored off Iraq before moving to a port in the United Arab Emirates, The Associated Press reported.

A CTF Sentinel coalition ship was providing overwatch in the immediate area and monitored the incident.

Iranian state television later on Thursday acknowledged the brief seizure, referring to the operation as a routine inspection without elaborating. Though the move was denounced by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as a "piracy attempt", the tanker was freed over American objections after around a month in custody. It wasn't immediately clear what cargo it carried. The effort was reportedly motivated by the arrival of five Iranian fuel tankers in Venezuela earlier this year, which delivered 1.5 million barrels of gasoline to the country, which is similarly placed under restrictive economic sanctions by the United States.

The US military did not offer any reason why Iran seized the vessel.

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