Gunboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp attempted to intercept a British commercial vessel, the British Heritage, in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, further escalating tensions in the area. The HMS Montrose, a British Royal Navy frigate, was 5 miles behind the commercial oil tanker and warned the Iranian ships off, urging Iranian authorities to de-escalate tensions and threatening to open fire.
The British Heritage has reportedly since left the Gulf.
Last week, British Royal Marines in Gibraltar captured an Iranian oil tanker suspected of carrying oil to Syria in violation of international sanctions. The Islamic Republic denied that the oil tanker was going to Syria, and Iranian officials threatened to retaliate by seizing a British ship in the region.
Iranian news media denied that Iranian forces tried to take the ship. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard reportedly said that “during the past 24 hours, no encounter has been made with foreign vessels including British vessels.”
This is just the latest incident in increasing tensions between Iran and the West. In June, the US government blamed Iran for oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. A week later, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a US Spy Drone in the area. The Iranian government claimed that the drone was inside Iranian airspace when it was shot down while US officials claim it was in international airspace.
According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly one third of the world’s seaborne crude oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, from countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Despite the strategic importance of the region, conflict in the Middle East continues to be unpopular with US citizens after decades of costly involvement in conflicts in the region. In late June, President Trump ordered a retaliatory airstrike against the Islamic Republic following the downing of the US spy drone in the Strait of Hormuz. Trump called off the strike at the last minute, stating that the attack would not be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
In Tweeting about his decision, Trump continued, “I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”