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.


U.S. fears Iran seized UAE-based tanker in Strait of Hormuz

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A small oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker two days ago, leading the U.S. to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the region, an American defense official said Tuesday. Iran offered no immediate comment on what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late Saturday night, though an Emirati official acknowledged the vessel sent out no distress call. Oil tankers previously have been targeted in the wider region amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. The concern about the Riah comes as Iran continues its own high-pressure campaign over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord over a year ago. Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.


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.


Tankers Are Attacked in Mideast, and U.S. Says Video Shows Iran Was Involved

NYT > Middle East

Explosions crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday in what the United States called "unprovoked attacks" by Iran, raising alarms about immediate security and potential military conflict in a vital passageway for a third of the world's petroleum. Iran called the accusations part of a campaign of American disinformation and "warmongering." The explosions forced the crews of both vessels to evacuate and left at least one ablaze, and hours later the causes were still under investigation. Yet the backdrop of steeply rising threats between President Trump and Iranian leaders gave the stricken ships a grave significance even before the facts became clear. By afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that American intelligence agencies had concluded Tehran was behind the disabling of both ships.