The seizure of a British-flagged tanker by Iran in the Gulf water has dramatically raised tensions in the region and the British said on Monday that it was planning a European-led protection force for shipping in the Gulf.
Iran’s move was condemned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who called it “state piracy” and emphasized that Britain did not want confrontation. “We will seek to establish this mission as quickly as possible,” Hunt said, adding that a second warship that Britain has sent to the region would arrive by July 29.
On Friday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero in the Gulf’s strategic Strait of Hormuz, further escalating the tension. Iran’s move came after British authorities seized an Iranian tanker off its overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of breaching EU sanctions against Syria against a backdrop of brinkmanship between Washington and Tehran.
In a message, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to Boris Johnson that his country is not seeking confrontation with Britain. During his visit to Nicaragua, Mr. Zarif said that “It is very important for Boris Johnson as he enters 10 Downing Street to understand that Iran does not seek confrontation, that Iran wants normal relations based on mutual respect.” He also accused Britain “of doing the bidding for the Trump administration”.
Hunt told Parliament that the protection force “will not be part of the US maximum pressure policy on Iran because we remain committed to preserving the Iran nuclear agreement”.
Iran has claimed that it seized the tanker after it failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat. However, all the accusations were rejected by Britain which claimed that there was no evidence of the crash and that the vessel was in Omani waters along with its transponder switched on.