Iran seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf claiming it was smuggling fuel to Arab states. According to Iranian news agency ISNA, the vessel was intercepted Wednesday night by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s 2nd Marine Corps. Iran’s state media Press TV reported that the vessel had seven crew members and was carrying 700,000 liters of fuel.
According to CNN, Naval Commander Ramadan Zirahi mentioned to ISNA that the boat carrying the “seized smuggled fuel” was transferred to the National Oil Distribution Company of Bushehr in coordination with the judiciary.
The oil tanker was an Iraqi ship, the official IRNA news agency reported, quoting the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Zihari also commented that the 2nd Marine Corps floating units were guarding the national interest and “will not hesitate for a moment.”
Iran’s Far News Agency broadcasted on Twitter that seven foreign nationals had been detained with the seizure. According to The New York Times, the Iraqi oil ministry denied any relationship with the tanker detained by Iran. Furthermore, Iraq and Iran are allies, raising the question of whether the seizure must have been a mistake.
This is the most recent seizure following Iran’s seizure last month of two tankers. The two previous tankers, one Panamanian and one British, triggered an escalation in the impasse between the Iran and Western powers after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal last year, according to CNN.
Seeing that this is the third time the Islamic Republic has detained a tanker in the last month, the U.S. continues to apply its campaign of “maximum pressure,” sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the country.
The three seizures also follow a sequence of events since May 2018 when Trump announced he was pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran, adding he would initiate new sanctions. Since then, the Trump administration has tried to force Iran into submission by choking off its oil sales, designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and launching cyber-attacks on Iran, according to CNN. Iran has also responded by seizing oil tankers in the Gulf and by targeting and downing U.S. drones.
The danger of Iran’s attacks and the response of the Trump administration is that it has continued an escalatory cycle in which both sides have maintained that they will not concede and will retaliate when provoked. Although Trump has announced he has no interest in war, considering that Iran’s Corps “will not hesitate for a moment,” one simple miscalculation may result in a full-scale conflict.