An Iranian spokesperson claimed on Sunday that the ship is an Iraqi vessel accused of “smuggling fuel for some Arab countries”, an allegation Iraq’s oil ministry has fervently denied.
This comes amongst a background of increasing tension between Iran and the international community, which has already seen the Islamic Republic seize two other tankers in previous weeks, including a British vessel.
It is also believed the Iranians are engaging in military operations in Iraq through Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard fighters. Members of both groups were killed last month while in Iraq as a consequence of rumoured Israeli airstrikes.
Tension has increased since US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear agreement earlier this year.
On Saturday, the Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif stated the regime would also look to reduce their compliance with the agreement if international tension continues. Zarif himself resisted attempts at reconciliation by refusing to meet President Trump in Washington last month.
US officials are seeking a combined effort with international partners to up the security given shipping in the Persian Gulf. The British Government announced on Sunday that it would be joining the US-led naval mission to protect merchant ships travelling thought the Gulf.
The British government has already deployed an additional Royal Navy destroyer – the HMS Duncan – to the region following the seizure of the British tanker, and announced it will establish a new maritime security force to protect UK ships from Iranian piracy in the Straits of Hormuz.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “It is vital to secure the freedom for all international shipping to navigate the Strait of Hormuz without delay, given the increased threat. This deployment will reinforce security and provide reassurance for shipping. Our aim is to build the broadest international support to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, as protected under international law”.
He added: “Our approach to Iran hasn’t changed. We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal”.