Jul 17, 2019

Strait of Hormuz re-enters focus for U.S.-Iran tensions

Supertanker Grace 1, which has been seized by Britain, off the coast of Gibraltar on July 6, 2019. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. suspects Iran has seized a small oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates, AP reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: Tensions between Iran and the U.S. — and Tehran and Washington's allies — are unfolding in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. says it is moving forward with plans to build an international military coalition to protect waters around Iran and Yemen, which includes the straight. President Trump said last month the U.S. was "cocked & loaded" to strike Iran.

The state of play: Iran has not commented on the UAE tanker's reported seizure. The vessel "entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker" 2 days ago, according to AP.

  • The tanker was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, which provides passage to about one-fifth of the world’s oil every day.
  • The United Kingdom seized an Iranian oil tanker at the start of July, "on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria," per CNBC.
  • The U.K. said last week 3 Iranian boats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz before a British warship intervened.

The bottom line: Iran has "threatened to stop oil tankers passing through the strait ... if it cannot sell its own oil abroad," per AP.

Go deeper: How Trump and Tehran came to the brink of war

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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.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jul 19, 2019

Iran says it seized foreign oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian state TV announced Thursday that the country's Revolutionary Guard seized a foreign tanker with 12 crew members onboard in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, accusing the ship of smuggling fuel, per the AP.

The big picture: While the Iranian report did not identify which country the ship belonged to, a U.S. official told the AP that it was likely a small, Panamanian-flagged tanker that operated around the United Arab Emirates and had turned off its tracking equipment on Sunday.

Go deeperArrowJul 18, 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