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Iran Crisis - July 2019

04 July 2019 - Iranian Tanker seized

The 330-meter (1,000-feet) Grace 1, capable of carrying 2 million oil barrels, was halted in the early hours of 04 July 2019 by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain's southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean. Iran denied that an oil tanker detained by Britain in Gibraltar was carrying crude to Syria, which would put it in violation of EU sanctions. "The tanker was carrying Iran's oil... Contrary to what the British government claims, its destination was not Syria," said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

10 July 2019 - Strait of Hormuz heats up

The UK Department for Transport issued a recommendation to British commercial ships near the Strait of Hormuz to exercise caution and put their security in a heightened state in case they are approached by "aggressive" Iranian patrol boats. The government raised the security code to the highest, critical level for all British ships sailing in Iranian waters. Not all British ships in the Gulf would be escorted by military vessels. In line with the new recommendations, the vessels are now keeping more watchmen on deck and have increased their speed in order to "keep safe".

On 10 July 2019, armed Iranian boats attempted to seize a British tanker in strategic Gulf waters but were driven off by a Royal Navy frigate. The Iranians ordered the British Heritage oil tanker, which was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area, to change course and stop in Tehran's nearby waters. A US aircraft shot video of the incident, which ended when the HMS Montrose which was escorting the tanker trained its guns on the boats and successfully warned them to back off. Later, the UK government said in a statement that the Iranian vessels only turned away after receiving "verbal warnings" from a UK navy vessel. "We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region," it said. Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied it "impeded" British tanker in Strait of Hormuz.

On 10 July 2019, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said Washington was working to form a military coalition to protect commercial shipping off the coast of Iran and Yemen amid heightened tensions in the region following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf. Under the proposal, a coalition of nations would patrol strategic waters in the Gulf area and the sea between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, Marine General Joseph Dunford said. "We're engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab," Dunford said. He added that the Pentagon had developed a specific plan, and that he believed it would be clear within a couple of weeks which nations were willing to join the effort.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said 17 July 2019 that Iran will not be a war starter but will defend its territory against any aggression. "Anybody who starts a war with Iran will not be the one who ends it," he said, referring to the escalating tensions between Iran and the United States amid U.S. military buildup in the region.

On 18 July 2019, the chief commander of the IRGC warned against the possibility of a change in Iran's military strategy "from the current defensive strategy toward an offensive one," according to Press TV. "As far as the strategy is concerned, we act defensively, meaning that we will not be the one to start or initiate any war," Major General Hossein Salami said during a visit to an area near the Strait of Hormuz. "The situation is, however, completely opposite when it comes to (Iran's) tactical attitude, and should enemies commit any miscalculation, our defensive strategy would turn into an offensive one," Salami said.

18 July 2019 - US Downs Iranian Drone

The USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, shot down the drone for flying too close to the ship in the Strait of Hormuz 18 July 2019, according to a statement by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. The incident took place about 10 am local time as the Boxer was transiting into the Strait of Hormuz. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew, he added. In remarks at the White House, Trump blamed Iran for a "provocative and hostile" action and said the US responded in self-defence. "The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce," Trump said.

19 July 2019 - Iran seizes UK tanker

The tensions around the key strait for oil shipments spiked after the Iranian military seized a UK tanker over what it described as a breach of international maritime regulations. The move followed the seizure of an Iranian ship off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions against Syria.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard said 19 July 2019 it had seized a Swedish-owned, British-flagged oil tanker that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The Guard's website, sepahnews.com, said the tanker "Stena Impero" was seized by the Guard's forces for "non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations" and transferred the vessel to an Iranian port.

London advised British ships on 20 July 2019 to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for "an interim period" following Iran's seizure of the British-flagged tanker. "We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation," a government spokeswoman said following an overnight meeting of the government's COBRA emergencies committee. "We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period."

Algeria's oil and gas company Sonatrach said that Iran released an oil tanker owned by the company 20 July 2019, after forcing it into Iranian territorial waters one day earlier. Sonatrach recalled that "on Friday, July 19, 2019, at 19:30 Algerian time (1830 GMT), and while crossing the Strait of Hormuz, the tanker MESDAR was forced by the Iranian navy forces to head to their territorial waters." Iranian authorities freed the tanker MASDAR, after a crisis-cell was set up between Algerian energy and foreign affairs ministries. The tanker reached its final destination namely Tanura coasts in Saudi Arabia.

France, Italy, and Denmark supported a UK plan to launch a European-led maritime mission in the Strait of Hormuz to boost the security of commercial navigation there after the seizure of the British oil tanker Stena Impero by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. London floated the idea at a diplomatic meeting in Brussels, insisting that the EU, NATO, or the US are not planned to be involved directly. "We will seek to establish this mission as quickly as possible, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced, condemning Tehran's actions as "state piracy". The new development followed Hunts presenting plans to protect shipments across the Strait to the British Parliament on 22 July 2019. British diplomats and military personnel also discussed a mission, involving both naval and air forces with Italian, Spanish, French, and German support.

"Britain's request, rather than Washington's, makes it easier for Europeans to rally round this. Freedom of navigation is essential, this is separate from the US campaign of maximum pressure on Iran, a senior EU diplomat noted.

The Adrian Darya I, the Iranian oil tanker previously detained in Gibraltar, eventually offloaded its oil in Syria. . It officially pledged that oil would not go to the Assad regime. But it did. The ship changed its name and flag and then headed toward Syria, contrary to all of Irans written pledges to the British authorities. Since losing control of the Syrian oilfields to ISIS in 2012, the al-Assad regime has been reliant on Iran for fuel. From 2013 to late 2018, Iran shipped an average of two million barrels a month to the Syrian regime.




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Page last modified: 16-09-2019 11:44:52 ZULU