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Iran: Foreign tanker in Gulf seized, sailors detained

By Allen Cone
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard jet boat sails around a seized tanker in Bandar Abbas, southern Iran, on July 21. Last week, Iran seized another foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf, state-run media reported Sunday. Photo by Hasan Shirvani/EPA
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard jet boat sails around a seized tanker in Bandar Abbas, southern Iran, on July 21. Last week, Iran seized another foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf, state-run media reported Sunday. Photo by Hasan Shirvani/EPA

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Iran seized a foreign tanker carrying about 185,000 gallons of fuel in the Persian Gulf and detained seven sailors from different nationalities, according to the country's Revolutionary Guards.

The naval forces seized the tanker on Wednesday because it was smuggling fuel for Arab countries, state-run Al Mayadeen TV quoted Revolutionary Guard commander Ramezan Zirah on Sunday, according to a CNBC report.

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The vessel was taken to Bushehr Port and its cargo turned over to the National Iranian Oil Product Distribution Company in Bushehr Province, according to the Fars news agency.

The tanker's origin wasn't identified.

The ship was reportedly seized near Farsi Island, a small, barren enclave in the Persian Gulf, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. The island is between Saudi Arabia and Iran, north of the Strait of Hormuz.

In Bahrain, the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said it did not have sufficient information to confirm the reports.

Thirty percent of the world's seaborne oil passes through the 21-mile wide Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has seized two other tankers in the past month, including one also allegedly for smuggling oil.

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On July 18, the paramilitary force seized a United Arab Emirates-based oil tanker, the Panamanian-flagged MT Riah, for allegedly smuggling some 264,000 gallons of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers.

One day later, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker, the "Stena Impero," because of maritime violations after it allegedly collided with an Iranian fishing boat and then failed to stop.

The incident followed British forces capturing an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, which it accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

Last week, a second British warship arrived in the area to protect British tankers.

The tensions have increased after sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration since the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May of 2018, citing it was "defective at its core."

On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced Tehran would make a third move to roll back its commitments to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for controls on its nuclear program.

"The third step in reducing commitments to [the nuclear deal] will be implemented in the current situation," Zarif said.

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