UK claims Iran "attempted to impede" British tanker in Gulf
Oil prices spike as tensions rise in Strait of Hormuz
Tensions in the Gulf were heightened after the UK claimed three Iranian boats “attempted to impede” a BP-owned British oil tanker in the strait of Hormuz on Wednesday.
The vessel, British Heritage, was attempting to pass through the crucial waterway when the incident occurred.
British warship HMS Montrose was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the UK's Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied the incident, while the country's Foreign minister Javad Zarif called the allegations “worthless”, according to the Fars news agency.
“Apparently the British tanker has passed. What [the British] have said themselves and the claims that have been made are for creating tension and these claims have no value,” Zarif was quoted as saying. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) also issued a statement denying involvement.
Tensions in the region have increased as the US becomes more bellicose in its policy towards Iran, largely driven by President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement and impose sanctions on the Gulf state.
The anti-Iran rhetoric has been further fuelled by Trump's ultra-hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton, a hardline critic of Tehran, who has actively pressured Trump to consider military options.
In retaliation, Tehran has ramped up uranium enrichment together with alleged harassment of tankers in the Hormuz strait.
On Wednesday Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned the UK it would face unspecified consequences as a result of Britain's seizure of an oil tanker bound for Syria off the coast of Gibraltar last week. The ship was believed to be in breach of EU sanctions on Syria,
Rouhani was quoted by the Iranian official IRNA news agency calling the seizure of the Iranian oil ship “mean and wrong”. During a cabinet meeting he warned the UK: “You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions.”