DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian forces have seized a foreign oil tanker in the Gulf, smuggling fuel into Arab states and arresting seven crew members, Iran's state-run media reported Sunday.
The ship was intercepted near the Iranian Farsi island in the Gulf, said the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars. The Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen reported that it was seized on Wednesday.
"The IRGC's naval forces have seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, smuggling fuel for some Arab countries," state television cited Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Ramezan Zirahi.
It carried 700,000 liters of fuel, he said. Seven crew members of different nationalities were arrested.
"The seizure of the oil tanker took place in coordination with the Iranian judicial authorities and on their orders," Fars quoted him.
Tensions between Iran and the West have increased since last year, when the US withdrew from an international agreement that curtailed the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions against Iran.
In July, British troops seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar and accused him of violating sanctions against Syria.
Iran then seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged violations of the law of the sea. It allowed a second to continue after issuing a warning.
When the United Kingdom described the seizure of Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz as illegal, it rejected the idea of releasing the Iranian tanker against the British-flagged ship that had been seized by the Revolutionary Guards.
Fears of a Middle East war with global implications have increased since Trump retired from the nuclear deal and reintroduced a series of sanctions to move Tehran into more comprehensive security concessions.
Iran has taken countermeasures by resuming the uranium enrichment seen in the West as a potential means of developing an atomic bomb. However, heightened economic sanctions are threatened by tightened US sanctions aimed at slowing down the trade in vital oil.
After several attacks on oil tankers in May and June accused of denial of responsibility for Washington by Tehran, Trump has attempted to forge a military coalition to secure the Gulf waters, despite European allies refusing to be out of fear to join in open conflict before provocations.
European Contracting Parties ̵
Tehran has called on them to accelerate their efforts or it will further reduce its commitments to the agreement. Britain declared on July 25 that it had begun sending a warship to escort all British flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.
Letter from Parisa Hafezi; Editing by David Evans and Angus MacSwan