Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps announced on Friday that its naval forces in the Persian Gulf had seized two oil tankers belonging to Greece. This has led to an escalation of tensions between Iran and the West at a time when diplomatic efforts to revive the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme have stalled.
According to Iranian news media, the shipment of Iranian oil was subsequently turned over to the United States for being in breach of American sanctions that prohibit Iran from exporting its oil; however, this assertion could not be independently confirmed and was only reported by Iranian news media.
The unidentified Greek official was quoted by The Associated Press as saying that U.S. officials had issued a formal request that the ship’s cargo be confiscated and that Greece give up the oil at one of its ports. This information was obtained from the Associated Press.
The event that took place on Friday brought to a close a stressful week in Iran that began on Sunday with the assassination of a senior member of the Guards in Tehran in a drive-by shooting. According to authorities from both Iran and intelligence agencies, the assault was carried out by Israel. Then, on Wednesday, a drone strike on the sensitive military installation of Parchin resulted in the death of an engineer who worked for the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
According to Iranian oil and energy experts, the seizure of the ships was a signal to Washington that Iran would toughen its stance if the Biden administration returned to the policies of maximum pressure that were in place during the Trump administration and began seizing tankers and crude oil cargo belonging to Iran.
As a result of the United States classifying the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group, discussions over the new nuclear accord have come to a standstill, and it is now unknown what will happen to the pact. Iran has asked that the classification be withdrawn, but Washington has so far refused to do so, claiming that the designation is independent from the nuclear agreement.
Iran’s actions on Friday were “tantamount to acts of piracy,” according to a statement released by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry also predicted that the actions would have a negative impact on relations between Iran and Greece, as well as Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member. It strongly discouraged its nationals from travelling to Iran.
On Friday, an Iranian Navy helicopter landed on a vessel called the Delta Poseidon, which was cruising in the Persian Gulf and flying the flag of Greece. Armed personnel then “caught the ship’s crew,” according to the Greek Foreign Ministry, which included two Greek nationals.
According to a statement released by the ministry, another vessel flying the flag of Greece was taken by Iranian authorities when it was in the vicinity of the country’s coastline. Seven residents of Greece were aboard this vessel. The second ship was referred to as the Prudent Warrior by Iranian news outlets, who also said that it had just moored in Basra, Iraq, and was transporting oil from Iraq.
An Iranian oil merchant who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal stated that the Guards directed the Greek ships to Iranian seas along the beach, where they have now moored. He said that Iran had moved the workers ashore and into a hotel, where they were being held under a type of house imprisonment. Iranian crews and gunmen have been deployed in their place to guarantee the ships would not move from their current positions.
If Iran’s oil and the ship that was stolen by Greece last month were not returned, the Tasnim news agency issued a warning that 17 additional Greek-flagged tankers that are presently sailing in the Persian Gulf will be seized by Iran.
Iran has a history of engaging in retaliation seizure of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in reaction to ships transporting its oil being stopped or seized. These retaliatory seizures often take place in response to Iran’s oil being halted or confiscated. The event that took place on Friday, however, was the first occasion in recent weeks that Iran has attacked a vessel flying a foreign flag.
In 2019, Iran took control of a British ship near retaliation for the United Kingdom’s decision to halt an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar. In the year 2020, Iran seized a South Korean ship as retaliation for South Korea’s decision to halt all of its oil earnings in reaction to economic sanctions imposed by the United States. Iran’s navy forces have also briefly taken control of a tanker flying the flag of Vietnam and another tanker flying the flag of Panama.
The West has accused Iran of launching a drone assault in 2021 on an Israeli-affiliated ship in the Persian Gulf, which resulted in the deaths of two European crew members. This incident was blamed on Iran. The shadow war between Iran and Israel has also played out in the seas of the Persian Gulf. Iran has refuted allegations that it had any part in the assault.