DUBAI – An oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates Three days ago, Emirates stopped in the Strait of Hormuz in Iranian waters and turned off the transponder according to vessel data tracking data. Tensions over a series of incidents involving merchant ships in the Persian Gulf increased.
Riah, flagged by Panama, stopped delivering his position late Saturday and was last shown off the coast of the Iranian island of Qeshm in the Strait of Hormuz. Data showed that the ship was on its way to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates before sharply diverted into Iranian territorial waters and came to a standstill.
An Emirati official denied that the tanker had connections to the United Arab Emirates "neither the United Arab Emirates owned nor operated" and "Emirati personnel not promoted".
"No emergency call was issued," said the official, who spoke about the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The small oil tanker Riah is featured on the vessel tracking sites registered with Prime Tankers in Dubai.
The Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet had "knowledge of the reports," but no further details, said a spokeswoman, Lt. Christina Gibson.
Since May, at least six ships have been attacked near the straits, the world's most important oil-choke point, in what the US has blamed Iran for. Britain said last week that Iranian naval forces were trying to block a British oil tanker that crossed the Straits but was repulsed by a naval frigate accompanying the ship.
Iran has denied involvement in the incidents, but also threatened to avenge British shipping interests after an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar was seized earlier this month.
The ship Grace 1 carried 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil and was suspected of driving into the Syrian port of Baniyas in violation of European Union sanctions, authorities in Gibraltar said. Gibraltar is a British territory.
"The vicious British government has committed piracy and attacked our ship," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech Tuesday. Iran would "not leave such actions without an answer," he warned.
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday Britain would facilitate the release of Grace 1 if Iran could guarantee that the cargo would not go to Syria. Iran has said that it is not under E.U. Sanctions.
The confrontation comes when Europe struggles to keep Iran in a nuclear agreement that it signed with the world powers in 2015, after the US withdrew from the pact last year.
The agreement curtailed Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for major sanctions relief, including from the US. The Trump administration violated the agreement and imposed sanctions on Iran in the fall, prompting Tehran to reverse its own obligations under the agreement, Iranian officials said.
European nations have urged Iran to reverse the recent steps they have taken to breach the agreement, including increasing uranium enrichment levels beyond the limit set by the agreement. Iran announces plans to further reduce its obligations to the nuclear pact at 60-day intervals until Europe compensates Tehran for economic losses caused by US sanctions.
Also on Tuesday, the Iranian judiciary confirmed the arrest of French Iranian scholar Fariba Adelkhah, who was arrested as the last dual national of Iranian security forces. French President Emmanuel Macron called Tehran on Monday to explain why 60-year-old Adelkhah was arrested.
"What happens is a big concern for me," Macron told reporters during a visit to Belgrade, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I expressed my refusal and asked President [Hassan] Rouhani for clarification," he said.