- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2019

Iran claimed Friday that it seized a British oil tanker traveling through the vital Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard said the ship, the Stena Impero, was seized due to “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations.” The vessel was transferred to an Iranian port in the Hormuzgan province, state-run media in Tehran said.

The ship was bound for Saudi Arabia, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

The incident comes just a day after the U.S. military said it shot down a “threatening” Iranian drone over international waters in the same region. White House officials characterized Friday’s seizure as another example of “escalatory violence” by Iran.

Stena Bulk, the U.K.-based company that owns the tanker, confirmed the reports on Friday afternoon and said it has lost contact with the ship, which had 23 people on board.

“U.K. registered vessel Stena Impero … was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters. We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran,” the company said in a statement on its website.

“There are 23 seafarers aboard. There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers. The priority of both vessel owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management is the safety and welfare of the crew.”

The White House quickly condemned the move.

“We are aware of reports that Iranian forces seized a British oil tanker. This is the second time in just over a week the U.K. has been the target of escalatory violence by the Iranian regime,” White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement. “The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behavior.”

Mr. Trump said he will support his British counterparts.

“We have a very close alliance with the U.K. and we always have,” Mr. Trump said as he departed the White House for his golf club in New Jersey.

Mr. Trump said the reported mischief bolsters his hard line on Tehran.

“This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran — trouble, nothing but trouble,” Mr. Trump said.

Just last week, Iranian boats harassed and tried to impede the passage of another British ship traveling in the same area.

Friday’s incident is the latest in a pattern of Iranian efforts to slow the passage of ships through the waters off its coast.

On Thursday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard — considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization — released video of the seizure of another foreign oil tanker Iran said was illegally smuggling fuel out of the country. The video shows the ship to be a United Arab Emirates vessel believed to have disappeared in Iranian waters over the weekend.

Last month, Iran allegedly carried out limpet mine attacks on two oil tankers traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping channel. The attacks and ship seizures seemingly are a direct response to the Trump administration’s implementation of a global embargo on the export of Iranian oil.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this story.

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