Iran has claimed it has foiled an attempt by the United States to ‘steal’ the Islamic Republic’s oil in the Sea of Oman.
U.S. forces used helicopters and warships in an attempt to block an Iranian oil tanker, Iran’s state media claimed.
The naval forces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were able to thwart the U.S.’s attempt to take over the vessel and moved the tanker to Iranian territorial water, Iran’s Press TV said on Wednesday.
Iran’s Mehr new agency said the incident relates to a confrontation between speedboats of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an American ship which left the scene. It said footage would be aired soon.
Neither state TV nor Mehr said when the incident had taken place, but Mehr described it as ‘recent’.
But U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Iranian report was not true and there had been no American attempt to seize a tanker.
The American officials said that in reality Iranian forces had seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker last month and U.S. naval forces were just monitoring the situation.
Iran has claimed it has foiled an attempt by the United States to ‘steal’ the Islamic Republic’s oil in the Sea of Oman. U.S. forces used helicopters and warships in an attempt to block an Iranian oil tanker, Iran’s state media claimed. (File image of Iranian oil vessel)
‘With the timely and authoritative action of the Guards naval forces, the U.S. terrorist Navy’s operation to steal Iranian oil in the Sea of Oman failed,’ the elite Guards said in a statement published by Iranian state media.
‘The tanker carrying Iran’s oil docked at the port of Bandar Abbas on October 25.’
But two US officials said in reality, the Iranian forces took control of the Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker MV Southys on October 24 at gunpoint and still holds the vessel off Bandar Abbas.
U.S. forces had monitored the seizure, but ultimately didn’t take action as the vessel went into Iranian waters.
A motive for the seizure remains unclear. Officials at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ship-tracking data analyzed by the AP from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel still off Bandar Abbas on Tuesday.
The two U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be made public amid ongoing attempts to restart talks in Vienna with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal.
The officials spoke to AP after Iranian state television offered a series of contradictory reports earlier Wednesday about a confrontation between the Guard and the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet. It described the incident as also happening in the Gulf of Oman, with the U.S. Navy detaining the vessel and the Guard bringing it back to the Islamic Republic.
The U.S. officials dismissed Iran’s version of events. Tehran also did not provide details of the ship’s name, nor any explanation of why the Navy targeted it. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iran has repeatedly warned the United States about its military activities in the Gulf, saying that the Guards’ naval forces have increased patrols to also secure the passage of Iranian ships and combat fuel smuggling.
The naval forces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were able to thwart the U.S.’s attempt to take over the vessel and moved the tanker to Iranian territorial water, Iran’s Press TV said on Wednesday (file image)
Separately, American officials said that multiple drones, believed to be Iranian, had come close to the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship Essex in the Strait of Hormuz in the past 24 hours.
Tensions have risen between Tehran and Washington amid stalled talks on reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, under which Tehran curtailed its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for a lifting of global sanctions.
The development comes as the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said on Wednesday that negotiations to revive the country’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers will fail unless US President Joe Biden can guarantee that Washington will not again abandon the pact.
‘The U.S. President, lacking authority, is not ready to give guarantees. If the current status quo continues, the result of negotiations is clear,’ Ali Shamkhani said in a tweet.
Iran is expected to give an exact date this week for the resumption of talks with the powers, scheduled for end of November according to Iranian top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani.
But on Sunday, Biden said that Iran will pay ‘economically’ if they do not resume negotiations on the nuclear deal.
The president’s comments came after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Sunday morning that the US. isn’t ruling out taking military action against Iran should they balk at nuclear talks.
In April, Iran and six powers started talks in Vienna to reinstate the deal, which then-U.S. President Donald Trump ditched three years ago before reimposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. However, the talks were put on hold after Iran’s presidential election in June that brought anti-Western hardliner Ebrahim Raisi to power.
President Joe Biden said Sunday that the U.S. will make Iran pay ‘economically’ if they do not restart negotiations on resuming the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
A main disagreement in Vienna has been over Iran’s requirement for the United States to give guarantees that it would not renege on the nuclear agreement in the future.
The United States and European powers have urged Iran to return to negotiations, warning that time is running out as the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment programme is advancing well beyond the limits set by the nuclear pact.
In reaction to Trump’s reimposition of sanctions, Tehran breached the deal by rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.