Iran seizes third foreign ship in less than month

The identity of the vessel and the nationality of its crew has not yet been confirmed

Iran has seized yet another foreign tanker in the Gulf, state media said Sunday, in what would be the third such seizure in a month amid heightened tensions with its foe the US. According to a statement of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps quoted by the official news agency IRNA, the ship was seized around Farsi Island and was carrying around 700,000 litres of smuggled fuel.

Seven foreign crew were arrested in the operation carried out on Wednesday night, said Fars news agency, which is considered close to the Guards. The identity of the latest vessel seized and the nationality of its crew had, however, not yet been revealed on Sunday. According to Reuters report, nevertheless, it seems that the ship might be Iraqi

Tensions between arch-enemies Iran and the US have soared this year after Washington stepped up its campaign of "maximum pressure" against Tehran. Ships have been attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized since May, a year after the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and began reimposing biting sanctions against the country. At the height of the crisis, US President Donald Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic's forces shot down a US drone.

The seizure of the latest tanker now would be the third by Iran in less than a month in Gulf waters - a conduit for much of the world's crude oil. On 18 July, the Guards said they had detained the Panama-flagged for MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling. A day later, they also announced they had impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules". Now, British officials said all British-flagged vessels had been accounted for, so there was no suggestion that any British nationals are among the arrested in the Wednesday's operation.

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