U.K. minister says seized Iranian oil tanker could be released soon if Tehran gives guarantees

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Britain will facilitate the release of a seized Iranian tanker Grace 1 if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel will not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, Britain's top diplomat said late Saturday. The comments by Jeremy Hunt could help de-escalate tensions that have spiked in recent days. In apparent retaliation for the seized tanker, Iranian paramilitary vessels tried to impede the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, only turning away after receiving "verbal warnings" from a British Royal Navy vessel accompanying the ship, the British government said. Hunt said he held a "constructive call" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and reassured him "our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil." Hunt wrote that Zarif told him Iran is not seeking to escalate the situation.


Iran oil tanker pursued by U.S. turns off tracker near Syria

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – An Iranian oil tanker blacklisted and pursued by the U.S. turned off its tracking beacon off the coast of Syria, leading to renewed speculation Tuesday that its oil will end up there, despite earlier assurances it wouldn't. The disappearance of the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, follows a pattern of Iranian oil tankers turning off their Automatic Identification System to try and mask where they deliver their cargo amid U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's energy industry. Its disappearance comes after the British territory of Gibraltar seized the tanker and ultimately released it weeks later when officials there said they received assurances its oil wouldn't go to Syria, underscoring the challenges authorities face as a U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran continues. "The fact that Adrian Darya 1, as it is now renamed, is currently skirting the Syrian coast with its AIS offline, awaiting what the U.S. intelligence services expect to be an imminent ship-to-ship transfer, which will ultimately see its cargo end up in Syria, is politically embarrassing for almost everyone except Iran," wrote Richard Meade, the managing editor of Lloyd's List. Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers and the imposition of heavy economic sanctions on Iran have blocked it from selling its crude oil abroad, a crucial source of government funding for the Islamic Republic.


Iran claims Saudi missiles hit oil tanker in 'terrorist' attack

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – An Iranian-owned oil tanker was struck by two missiles off the Saudi port of Jiddah on Friday, Iranian state television reported, quoting the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) which owns the vessel. The tanker was set ablaze and suffered heavy damage and was leaking crude about 60 miles (96 km) from Jiddah, according to Iranian media. The alleged attack is the latest incident involving oil tankers in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf region, and is likely to ratchet up tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which operates in the region, said it was aware of media reports about the tanker, but did not have any further information at this time. There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia.


Iran says legal steps for U.K. tanker release have been completed

The Japan Times

DUBAI – An Iranian government spokesman said on Monday that all legal steps had been completed for the release of the detained British-flagged tanker Stena Impero but that he did not know when the vessel would be released, Iranian media reported. The July 19 seizure of the ship, two weeks after the U.K. detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, cranked up tensions in the region in the wake of attacks on other merchant vessels that Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran denied responsibility for those attacks, which took place along a vital international oil shipping route. "The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed but I have no information on the time of the release," said government spokesman Ali Rabiei, according to semi-official news agency ILNA. The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Rabiei as saying: "The legal work for the oil tanker is over … and the oil tanker can move, and the decisions indicate the end of the detention."


Iranian forces seize foreign oil tanker and crew, state TV report says

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran's state TV says Revolutionary Guard forces have seized a foreign tanker with 12 crew accused of smuggling oil. The seizure comes as tensions mount between the United States and Iran over the unraveling nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Thursday's report says the tanker was smuggling fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers and was intercepted south of Iran's Larak Island in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The TV didn't identify the tanker or say which country the crew were from. An oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago.