By Jackson Richman
Iran seized an oil tanker headed for Texas on Thursday, according to the U.S. Navy.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) took over the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, called the Advantage Sweet, in the Gulf of Oman, said the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The tanker issued a distress signal as this was happening. The IRGCN seized the tanker by going onto the ship via helicopter.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” said the Fifth Fleet in a statement. “The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker.”
The tanker is an 11-year-old commercial vessel owned by Turkey-based firm Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati AS.
The Fifth Fleet noted that the seizure is part of a pattern of behavior by Tehran.
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” it said. “In the past two years, Iran has unlawfully seized at least five commercial vessels sailing in the Middle East.”
Last May, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, seized two Greek tankers in the Persian Gulf. Iran released the tankers the following November.
In July 2019, Iran seized in the Strait of Hormuz two British-linked tankers, the Stena Impero and the MV Mesdar, which had a Liberia flag. The Stena Impero was released the following September.
Earlier this month, the United States sent a submarine, the USS Florida, to the Middle East amid tensions between Iran and Israel.
“Recent events, including the strikes in Syria and public threats made by Iran against merchant vessels, prompted us to remind regional mariners to remain vigilant,” said Fifth Fleet Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins.
The United States sought to reenter the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal, but has been unable to reach an agreement with Iran. Negotiations have been suspended since last year owing to Russian demands. Additionally, Iran has come under fire for allegedly supplying drones to Russia to use in its invasion of Ukraine.
Over the past couple of weeks, the United States has enacted punishments against Iran.
On April 24, the U.S. State Department imposed visa restrictions on 11 Iranian officials for allegedly being connected with human rights abuses in Iran. The U.S. Treasury Department enacted sanctions on five Iranian officials for alleged human rights violations.