A commander of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran threatened to seize a UK ship this Friday in retaliation after British Marines captured an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar.
"If the UK does not release the Iranian tanker, it is the task of the authorities to seize a British tanker," said Mohsen Rezai on Twitter.
The government of Gibraltar said that the crew members of the tanker Grace 1 are being interviewed as witnesses, not suspected of crime, in an attempt to establish the nature of their cargo and their final destination.
British Marines descended from rope on the ship located on the coast of British territory on Thursday and seized it. They landed a helicopter on the moving vessel in total darkness.
The maneuver aggravated a confrontation between Iran and the west a few weeks after the United States cancelled air strikes minutes before impact, and dragged Washington's closest ally to a crisis in which European powers have endeavored to remain Neutral.
Tehran convened the British ambassador on Thursday to express "his very strong objection to the illegal and unacceptable apprehension" of his ship, a measure that also eliminated doubt about the property of the vessel.
The spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, Abbas Mousavi, said the shipment of crude oil is from its country. According to the ship's documents, the oil is from neighboring Iraq, but monitoring data seen by Reuters indicates that it was loaded into an Iranian port.
European countries have been walking on the tightrope since last year, when the U.S. ignored their appeals and disconnected from a pact between Iran and world powers that gave Tehran access to global trade in exchange for limitations in its nuclear program.
In the last two months, Washington has hardened the sanctions against Tehran in order to disrupt its oil exports altogether. This practically interdicted the main markets to Iran and forced him to find heterodox ways to sell his crude oil.
Still on Thursday, Gibraltar said he had considerable reason to believe that Grace 1 was transporting crude oil to the Baniyas refinery in Syria, but did not mention the property of the vessel or the origin of the cargo.
Navigational experts say he may have tried to avoid the most direct route through the Suez Canal, where a large tanker would normally be instructed to unload part of his cargo into a pipeline to pass, which could expose him to a seizure.
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