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Iran seizes tanker headed to US

By Sarah May on
 April 28, 2023

As tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high over the latter's continued nuclear program development, the Iranian navy seized an oil tanker bearing a Marshall Islands flag in the Gulf of Oman Thursday, as the Associated Press reports.

Destined for Houston, the tanker was subsequently identified as the Advantage Sweet by the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in the Middle East.

Tanker Seized

As the New York Post notes, the vessel issued a distress call at roughly 1:15 p.m., and though the Navy did not provide information about the ship's ultimate destination, revealed that on Thursday afternoon, it was situated in the Gulf of Oman and on its way to the U.S.

The tanker had made its way from Kuwait and showed a destination of Houston, Texas, according to the Post.

Early reports suggested that it was the Revolutionary Guard paramilitary group that unlawfully took control of the tanker, but American military aircraft later determined that it was, in fact, done by Iran's own navy.

Release of the ship – the fifth such vessel seized by Iran in this manner over the last two years – is now being demanded by the U.S. Navy in the area.

Masked Commandos Seen in Footage

As the Associated Press reported separately, footage aired on Iranian state television on Friday depicted the harrowing scene when masked commandos utilized helicopters to pull off the seizure of the ship.

The video showed the commandos lowering themselves onto the ship's deck with ropes fastened to a helicopter hovering overhead.

Once the mission was complete, the Turkish firm that manages the vessel issued a formal statement declaring that the ship was “being escorted by the Iranian navy to a port on the basis of an international dispute.”

The firm added, “The safety and welfare of our valued crew members is our No. 1 priority. Similar experiences show that crew members of vessels taking under such circumstances are in no danger.”

Iranian Actions Condemned

Responding to the seizure of the Advantage Sweet, a representative of the Navy's 5th Fleet declared, “Iran's actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability.”

“The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker,” the statement continued.

Underscoring the ongoing nature of the rogue actions, the 5th Fleet added, “Iran's continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy.”

Maritime security experts with Dryad Global echoed the notion of continued aggression on the part of Tehran, saying that its “harassing activity within the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is commensurate with an established pattern of behavior that has seen Iran target vessels as a result of ongoing disputes,” the AP further noted.

Latest Flashpoint in Ongoing Conflict

The tanker's seizure represents the latest flare-up in continuously heated dealings between the U.S. and Iran, with a Tehran-backed drone strike killing an American contractor and injuring five American service members in northeastern Syria earlier this year, as The Hill reported at the time.

In the aftermath of that incident, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin revealed that President Joe Biden gave the green light for the launch of retaliatory strikes “in eastern Syria against the facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”

Biden, for his part, stated, “Make no mistake, the United States does not – does, not emphasize – seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people.”

However, as negotiations over a potentially re-engineered nuclear deal with Iran have stalled indefinitely, and Tehran continues running advanced centrifuges and stockpiling enriched uranium, it appears unlikely that the potential for heighted hostility with the U.S. will not abate anytime soon.