08/05/2019, 09.10
IRAN - GULF
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Iranian navy seizes another foreign vessel in Gulf

According to Tehran, the vessel flying the Iraqi flag carried 700,000 liters of contraband oil.  Baghdad denies links with the ship, perhaps owned by a private individual.  It is the third seizure in a few weeks in the Gulf waters.  High Iranian official minimizes the possibility of conflict in the region.

 

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Iran announced yesterday the seizure of a new foreign vessel - flying the Iraqi flag - in the Gulf waters, because it was suspected of "trafficking oil for some Arab nations".  The authorities stopped the seven sailors aboard the ship, awaiting an interrogation on the 700 thousand liters of "contraband" diesel contained on board.

In less than a month the Iranian Revolutionary Guardians have seized three different vessels, in a strategic area that has now become the heart of the tensions between Tehran and the United States.  A test of strength of the paramilitary forces of the Islamic Republic, in the context of an escalation that risks leading to an open conflict.

 Iranian forces intercepted the vessel on 31 July around the island of Farsi, in the north of the Gulf, as it was heading towards the Arab countries of the region.  According to the latest information, the ship was transferred to the port of Bouchehr, in the south, and the fuel on board seized by the authorities according to the instructions given by the Iranian judiciary.

The Iraqi Ministry of Petroleum claims to have no connection with the seized vessel and is working to gather information, but points out that it is not "exporting diesel to the international market".  The authorities have started an investigation to understand who the ship belongs to;  it could be from a private company owned by an Iraqi merchant.

 At the moment no country has reported the "disappearance" of its own vessel.  The Fifth US Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it had no information and London also denied new seizures of ships.  In the background remains the latent conflict triggered by US President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ​​agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, which was followed by the toughest sanctions in history against Iran.  A clash that led to an increase in US and British military presence in the region.

In recent days, the United Kingdom has announced the sending of another warship to the Gulf, the destroyer Duncan, which joins the Montrose frigate, to protect civil and commercial ships.  A move that has provoked the harsh response of Iranian President Hassan Rohani who stressed that "the presence of foreign forces will not bring security, but on the contrary will increase tensions in the Persian Gulf region".

Lastly, lastly, a senior Iranian official wanted to minimize the possibility of an open conflict.  "At first sight - said General Ahmadreza Pourdastan - it could seem that the situation in the Persian Gulf is heading towards a military conflict, but analyzing the reality more deeply we see that the probability of a conflict has been reduced".  "The nations that have interests in the region - he concludes - do not want a new crisis in the Middle East".

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