On Wednesday, five boats were supposed to belong to Iranian Revolutionary Guards approached a British oil tanker in the Gulf and asked it to stop in Iranian waters close by, but withdrew after a British warship warned them, said U.S officials.

However, Britain’s Ministry of Defence made no comment immediately. The development occurred a few days after British Royal Marines boarded an Iranian tanker, Grace 1, off Gibraltar and seized it suspecting that it was carrying oil to Syria, breaking sanctions.

Since Washington stepped up economic sanctions against Iran by blocking the country’s oil exports, the tension between Iran and the United States and its allies have increased sharply. The move was taken to give a “maximum pressure” policy to make Iran halt actions that it said undermined regional security.

Iran has replied to the sanctions by initiating to break limits put on its nuclear activities under a 2015 deal with world powers. In May and June, several oil tankers were attacked in waters near Iran’s southern coast. The United States blames Iran for the incident while Tehran denied any involvement.

As a result, Iran shot down a U.S drone near the Strait of Hormuz, last month. The U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed its guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed.”

“It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage,” the other official said. The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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