Iran threatens retaliations after UK stops boats intercepting commercial tanker as it travelled through Strait of Hormuz

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
The MS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and a British vessel in the Strait of Hormuz (PA/file photo)

Iran has threatened to retaliate as tensions between Tehran and the West continued to escalate following an incident with a UK commercial tanker on the Strait of Hormuz.

The Royal Navy said it drove off three Iranian vessels which tried to stop the vessel, which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said was “contrary to international law”.

Iran have ramped up the rhetoric following the incident, with Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, suggesting “reciprocal action”.

He is quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying: “Now an action that does not need ability but some stupidity has been carried out by them.

“The American government... and also England... should not have taken action if they had made the smallest calculation.

“Their action was very silly and they will certainly regret it. Our reciprocal action will be announced.”

The route of the oil tanker British Heritage through the Straits of Hormuz (PA)

The altercation came a day after Iran spoke out against Britain due to the interception of a supertanker believed to be breaching EU sanctions by carrying a shipment of crude oil to Syria.

Confirming the incident, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said: "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.

"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region.”

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency during a Cabinet meeting as saying last week's seizure of the supertanker off Gibraltar was "mean and wrong”.

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He warned London: "You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions," without elaborating.

The seizure and incident in the Strait of Hormuz come at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the US and Iran grow over the unravelling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from last year.

European parties to the nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday said they have "deep concern" that Tehran has begun enriching uranium to a higher purity than allowed under the agreement and called for an urgent meeting of all involved in the accord.

In a joint statement by Britain, Germany, France and the European Union, the group expressed "deep concern that Iran is not meeting several of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action", or JCPOA, as the 2015 nuclear deal is known.

The US has said it will move ahead with plans to build a coalition of nations to monitor and deter Iranian threats against commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf area and in a waterway around Yemen, according to a top military officer.

British navy vessel HMS Montrose escorts another ship during a mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria at sea off coast of Cyprus in February 2014 (AP)

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon has developed a specific plan, and that he believes it will be clear within a couple of weeks which nations are willing to join the effort.

Gen Dunford said he discussed the matter on Tuesday with acting secretary of defence Mark Esper and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and that plans are coming together.

"We're getting ready now to move out," Gen Dunford told a small group of reporters at Fort Myer, Virginia.

Tensions between the US and Iran grew over the unravelling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from last year (AP)

"We have a pretty clear concept of what we want to do.”

British Heritage is a BP Century class Suezmax tanker, the largest to be able to travel through the Suez Canal and capable of carrying more than one million barrels of oil, according to the BP Shipping website.

Registered at the port of Douglas, in the Isle of Man, the ship is operated by BP usually with a crew of around 25 people.

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