Iran has claimed responsibility for an apparent hijacking of an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. The U.K. Maritime Trade Operations received a report around 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday of the tanker being boarded by four or five armed men “wearing military style black uniforms with black masks.” A few hours later, Iranian state TV said the country’s navy had carried out the attack.

Iran is exacting revenge for a perceived slight involving the tanker. The vessel was the center of a dispute between Iran and the U.S. over the evasion of oil sanctions. In February 2022, the ship loaded 1 million barrels of Iranian oil and then sat in the South China Sea for months. Eventually, the ship offloaded the oil off the coast of Texas, where it was then seized by the Department of Justice.

The tanker was carrying oil from Iraq to Turkey when it was seized on Wednesday. It is flagged in the Marshall Islands and operated by a Greek firm, with a mostly Filipino crew. After the seizure by Iran’s navy, it turned toward an Iranian port.

Iran uses oil-smuggling proceeds to fund terrorism. The Iran nuclear deal allowed Iran to sell oil on international markets again, but the U.S. withdrawal from that agreement in 2018 meant oil sanctions came back into effect.

The Gulf of Oman is on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula. The Strait of Hormuz connects the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf, and about one-fifth of internationally traded oil passes through the strait. The Gulf of Oman is bordered by Iran to the north and Oman to the south and opens to the Indian Ocean.

Yemen and the Red Sea, where the Iran-backed Houthi movement has been attacking commercial vessels and U.S. and allied naval vessels, is on the western side of the peninsula. The largest Houthi attack yet, the 26th since November 19 according to U.S. Central Command, occurred on Tuesday. Jets from a U.S. aircraft carrier, three U.S. destroyers, and one U.K. destroyer combined to shoot down 18 drones, two cruise missiles, and one anti-ship missile, all of which were launched from Yemen and designed by Iran.

Seizures similar to Wednesday’s have occurred for years, but this one is different in a few ways. First, the seizure was carried out by Iran’s navy, not the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. In the past, the Revolutionary Guard was responsible for most seizures of tankers. Second, it’s impossible to ignore the larger context of the attack. Iran’s proxy in Yemen is also attacking U.S. vessels, and Iranian proxies elsewhere in the Middle East have launched over 118 attacks on U.S. personnel in the past few months. Iran and its proxies continue to target vessels associated with the U.S. and the West while allowing safe passage to Chinese vessels.

In a joint statement now eight days old, the White House said the Houthis would “bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.” That was made obsolete by Tuesday’s attack by the Houthis, which has so far prompted no U.S. response. Yet Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Bahrain repeated on Wednesday that “there will be consequences” if the attacks continue.

Wednesday’s seizure, conducted after Blinken’s comments, means now the Iranian navy itself is “threatening lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.” The administration’s weakness continues to invite enemy aggression.

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Iranian Navy Seizes Oil Tanker

Iran is exacting revenge for a perceived slight by seizing a tanker involved in a 2022 dispute over the evasion of ... READ MORE


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