Last week, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz which a British warship tried but failed to prevent, showed an intercepted radio communications. This information has triggered a wave of recriminations in London who was responsible for the incident.
On Sunday, the shipping consultancy Dryad Global posted on social media posted recorded audio in which a member of the Revolutionary Guard is heard ordering the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker to divert course toward Iran. “Alter your course,” the man says. “If you obey you will be safe.”
A British naval officer interrupts, telling the Stena Impero that it has the right to proceed through the waterway. He says, “Under international law, your passage must not be impeded, obstructed or hampered.”
If you obey you will be safe.” A British naval officer interrupts, telling the Stena Impero that it has the right to proceed through the waterway. He says, “Under international law, your passage must not be impeded, obstructed or hampered.”
Following which, the British officer addresses the Iranian, “Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by unlawfully attempting to board the MV Stena.” To protect British shipping, after Iran threatened to seize a British tanker, two warships were sent to the Persian Gulf. However, Iran’s move came after an Iranian tanker was detained by Britain in the Mediterranean earlier this month.
The reliability of the recording was challenged neither by Iran nor Britain. Iran says it detained the Stena Impero for unspecified “violations” of maritime law. A former head of the Royal Navy said the tanker should have been better protected before it was intercepted on Friday.
British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood ignoring the criticization said, “Our first and most important responsibility is to make sure that we get a solution to the issue to do with the current ship, make sure other British-flagged ships are safe to operate in these waters and then look at the wider picture.”
On being asked by the reporters whether Britain had taken its “eye off the ball” and failed to defend ships in crucial waterways, Ellwood replied: “No, not at all.”
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif warned Britain not to escalate the situation. In a posting on his Twitter account, he accused the U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, of seeking to drag Britain “into a quagmire.”
“Only prudence and foresight can thwart such ploys,” he tweeted. The deadlock situation raises as the British government and lawmakers are distracted with the finale of the leadership contest to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, a race between Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.