TEHRAN – After a pressure campaign from the U.S. and its allies on the Iranian economy, followed by a few threat exchanges, Iran has seized an oil tanker it claimed was carrying 1 million liters of “smuggled fuel,” state news agency Press TV said on Thursday.
The IRGC said it had initially responded to distress calls from a ship on Sunday but when they searched it, they discovered it was a smuggling operation, according to Iranian state media.
Fars, the Iranian news agency, said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces ambushed the tanker that was carrying 12 people on Sunday.
In response, the U.S. military commander in the region said the United States would work “aggressively” to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway.
American military claims they shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, President Trump said during a ceremony at the White House, Iranian officials deny the claim.
Trump said the unmanned aircraft threatened the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship that can launch attack jets and helicopters from its landing deck.
“The drone was immediately destroyed,” Trump said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said in a statement that the Boxer was in international waters and that the drone “closed within a threatening range” before taking defensive action.
It was unclear if the Iranian drone was armed.
There was no immediate comment from Tehran on the downing, but it will most likely add fuel to the flaming tensions between Iran and the United States.
A parallel dispute between Britain and Iran broke out a little more than a week ago when the British military seized an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. Britain said it suspected the tanker was heading to Syria, in violation of European Union sanctions.
Iran called the seizure an “act of piracy” and accused Britain of acting at the behest of Washington. It threatened to retaliate in kind.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the head of Iranian diplomacy and a prominent face for Iranian foreign policy, said that the U.S. should return to the international consensus, stressing that in the event of war in the region, “no one will survive, including Israel.”
This read as a direct message to Tel Aviv.
With Iran shifting from strategic patience to a stage of reciprocity, what we’re left with is a sense of wonderment on whether or not a voice of reason would prevail in Washington, resulting in a peaceful negotiation preventing a dangerous wide war.