Updated Jul 19, 2019

Iran reportedly seizes U.K. tanker in Strait of Hormuz

An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo: Getty Images

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said it seized a U.K. tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, the BBC reports.

The latest: Jeremy Hunt, the U.K. foreign secretary, said in a statement on Friday that Iran also seized a second vessel. The second tanker is Liberian-flagged but U.K. owned, according to the BBC. These are the latest in a series of escalatory events in the narrow waterway through which 20% of the world's oil supply flows.

  • Iran disputed the account of the second vessel seizure, and the ship's manager later explained in a statement that the ship had been boarded, but allowed to continue on, according to Fars, Iran's semiofficial news organization.

The big picture: Two weeks ago off Gibraltar, British marines "stormed an Iranian ship believed to have been carrying oil to Syria" in violation of EU sanctions, per CNN.

  • Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, vowed to retaliate. Days later, on July 10, a British warship intervened after Iranian vessels reportedly attempted to divert a U.K. tanker in the strait.
  • Yesterday, President Trump said the U.S. had "destroyed" an Iranian drone that came within a threatening distance of U.S. warship. Iran denies that.
  • The U.S. has been attempting to shape an international response to ensure maritime security near the strait.
  • The recent events come as Trump's "maximum pressure" strategy has blocked most Iranian oil exports, a step Tehran refers to as "economic warfare."

Details on today's incident, via the BBC:

  • "The owners of the tanker, named the Stena Impero and bound for Saudi Arabia, say they have been unable to contact the vessel and it is 'heading north towards Iran.'"
  • "The company says there are 23 personnel on board, and it was approached by 'unidentified small crafts and a helicopter'" in the strait.
  • "The Foreign Office says it is 'urgently' looking into the reports."

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement: "this is the second time in just over a week that the U.K. has been the target of escalatory violence by the Iranian regime. The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran's malign behavior."

Go deeper: Finding a way off the U.S.-Iran ledge.

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U.S. warns Greek government as Iran tanker sails toward Greece

The Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on Sunday. Photo: Johnny Bugeja/AFP/Getty Images

A State Department official said Monday the U.S. conveyed its "strong position" to the Greek government and all ports in the Mediterranean about a Greece-bound Iranian supertanker it sought to seize, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The Adrian Darya 1 tanker has been at the center of a standoff between Iran and the West since it was detained at Gibraltar on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria. The official said the tanker is assisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp and any efforts to help it may be considered providing material support to the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, which has potential criminal consequences, per Reuters.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Aug 19, 2019

Iran nuclear deal crisis talks held amid U.S.-Tehran tension

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi (2nd L) after talks in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Diplomats from Iran, Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union recommitted Sunday to saving Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal after "constructive" talks in Vienna, a senior Iranian official said, according to AP.

Why it matters: The talks come at a time of heightened tension between the West and Iran, after the U.S. withdrew from the deal and hit Tehran with sanctions. Hours before the talks, the U.S. and Israel said they tested a missile defense system in Alaska. The goal is to intercept long-range missiles from Iran, Barak Ravid writes for Axios.

What they're saying: Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi told reporters after that while not every issue was resolved, those present were "determined to save this deal," per AP.

The big picture: The United Nations' nuclear watchdog confirmed this month that Iran has followed through on its threat to enrich uranium beyond the purity limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal.

What's next: There was a general agreement at Sunday's talks to organize a higher-level meeting of foreign ministers soon, though no date had been set, according to AP.

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Keep ReadingArrowJul 29, 2019

Iran denies that U.S. destroyed its drone

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. Photo: MCSN Craig Z. Rodarte/U.S. Navy/Getty Images

President Trump claimed a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, but Iranian officials denied Friday that the country had lost any drones, reports the AP.

Why it matters: When Iran downed a U.S. drone in the same area last month, it very nearly led to military conflict, per Axios' Dave Lawler, as the tension between the two countries is unfolding in a strait that carries a fifth of all global crude exports.

Go deeperArrowJul 19, 2019