In this satellite photo, vessels identified as the Virgo, left, and the Suez Rajan are seen in the South China Sea on Feb. 13, 2022. For months, the Suez Rajan sat in the sea before suddenly sailing for the Texas coast without explanation. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Iran’s Navy Seizes Oil Tanker in Gulf of Oman

Associated Press|

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Iran’s navy seized an oil tanker on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman that once was at the center of a major crisis between Tehran and Washington, officials said. The seizure further escalates tensions in the Mideast waterways.

The vessel was once known as the Suez Rajan and was involved in a yearlong dispute that ultimately saw the U.S. Justice Department seize 1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil on it.

The seizure also comes after weeks of attacks by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea, including their largest barrage ever of drones and missiles launched late Tuesday.

That has raised the risk of possible retaliatory strikes by U.S.-led forces now patrolling the vital waterway, especially after a United Nations Security Council vote on Wednesday condemning the Houthis. American and British officials have warned of potential consequences over the attacks.

Iran’s state-run television acknowledged the seizure late Thursday afternoon, hours after armed men boarded it.

“The violating oil tanker Suez Rajan … stole Iranian oil by leading it to the Americans and delivered it to the Americans,” state TV said. It said Iran’s navy, rather than its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, conducted the seizure. Past tense incidents at sea have largely involved the Guard.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, said Thursday’s seizure began early in the morning in the waters between Oman and Iran. The area is transited by ships coming in and out of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes.

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