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Friday, May 24, 2024

Tensions likely to escalate as Iran snatches Tanker linked with US

According to the semi-official Fars news agency, the Iranian Navy executed the seizure with a judicial order, citing the previous incident involving the U.S. confiscation of Iranian oil.

On Thursday, Iran seized control of the St Nikolas, a tanker carrying Iraqi crude oil bound for Turkey. This move was reported by Iranian state media and is believed to be a retaliation for the United States’ confiscation of the same vessel and its oil last year. According to the semi-official Fars news agency, the Iranian Navy executed the seizure with a judicial order, citing the previous incident involving the U.S. confiscation of Iranian oil. The St Nikolas, formerly known as Suez Rajan, was taken by the U.S. during a sanctions enforcement operation in the past year. Iran had warned of consequences for this action.

The recent incident took place near the Omani city of Sohar, where armed individuals boarded the St Nikolas and diverted it toward the Iranian port of Bandar-e-Jask. The ship, which had loaded 145,000 metric tonnes of oil in Basra, Iraq, was originally heading to Aliaga in western Turkey through the Suez Canal. The armed intruders turned off the vessel’s AIS tracking system, and the ship’s operator, Empire Navigation, lost contact with the tanker.

This seizure occurred amid ongoing attacks on Red Sea shipping routes by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militias. Notably, these attacks have traditionally focused on the Bab al-Mandab Strait, southwest of the Arabian Peninsula. However, Thursday’s incident took place closer to the Strait of Hormuz, heightening concerns about regional tensions.

Warnings from UN, UK

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported the unauthorized boarding of the St Nikolas by armed men in the waters between Oman and Iran. This area is crucial for global oil trade, as it is heavily transited by ships entering and exiting the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, through which a significant portion of the world’s oil passes.

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The situation adds to existing risks in the region, as U.S.-led forces patrolling the Strait of Hormuz express concerns about possible retaliatory strikes. The United Nations Security Council had recently condemned Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and American and British officials had warned of potential consequences. The incident raises further uncertainty about the security of vital waterways in the region.