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Tensions are building between Great Britain and Iran as the U.K.-based Guardian reports that British ships operating in the Persian Gulf have been put on “the highest state of alert” as British officials fear that U.K.-flagged commercial vessels are vulnerable to attack by Iranian gunboats.
On July 19, Iran's Revolutionary Guard launched a gunboat and helicopter raid on the U.K.-registered Stena Impero. The Iranians claimed the tanker had turned off its tracker and ignored warnings.
HMS - Montrose - Stena - Impero - Omani
The HMS Montrose was dispatched while the Stena Impero was in Omani waters, but the frigate arrived too late to help — after the tanker had entered the Strait of Hormuz.
Another British oil tanker, the Mesdar, was also intercepted by the Iranians and forced towards Iranian territory in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.
Montrose - Interception - Ship - Guardian - UK
However, the Montrose was successful in preventing the interception of another British ship. The Guardian quoted the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence statement about that incident: “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the strait of Hormuz.”
HMS Montrose was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the statement said. “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
Heritage - Shipment - Oil - Basra - Iraq
British Heritage had been scheduled to load a shipment of oil in Basra, Iraq, but abruptly turned round on the advice of the British government.
A defense source told Britain’s Times that the Iranians appeared to be taking a “very aggressive stance” and were seen as having been “ready to engage” HMS Montrose.
Tensions - Javad - Zarif - Iran - Minister
As tensions escalated, Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, ratcheted up the war of words with Britain, tweeting:
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