Iran’s Dangerous Game in the Gulf of Oman – Analysis

Iranian media claim that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps humiliated the United States in a one-time operation meant to prevent “piracy” against Iranian oil. Iran claims that the United States banned an Iranian tanker and confiscated the oil and that Iran then sent its IRGC and landed on an oil tanker using helicopters and brought the tanker back to Iran. Iran is under US sanctions and recent reports have indicated that Iran is trying to renew its oil exports to various countries, such as China.

This is not the first time that the United States has unloaded Iranian oil. The United States seized fuel from four tankers in August 2020. More than one million barrels of Iranian oil were confiscated and sold in the incident involving four Iranian ships. In 2019, the Iranian tanker Grace 1 was intercepted by the British Royal Marines but was subsequently released from Gibraltar. The Grace 1 was renamed Adrian Darya and turned off its AIS tracking beacon and traveled to Syria after the 2019 incident. Meanwhile, Iran attempted to intercept the British tanker Heritage, then seized British oil tanker Stena Impero in the fall of 2019, finally releasing this in September 2019.

Iran frequently tries to send fuel to Syria and now even to Lebanon. This led to further tensions. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel attacked Iranian tankers bound for Syria. An alleged secret IRGC “mother ship” called Saviz was also attacked in April in the Red Sea, according to reports. The MV Helios Ray was attacked in February. This ship is reportedly owned by the Israelis. Other incidents followed; the Lori was attacked in March and the Tyndall in July. The MV Hyperion Ray was also attacked in April.

USNI said in late July that “an exploding drone killed two crew members aboard a merchant tanker off the coast of Oman, the US 5th Fleet said in a statement Friday night. were crew members aboard the Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street when the ship was struck by at least one unmanned aerial vehicle loaded with explosives on Thursday evening, the statement said.

This is the backdrop to new reports that an Iranian tanker has been arrested and its fuel taken by the United States, only for Iran to supposedly take over another tanker carrying the fuel. Iran has disclosed details of a “pirate” attack on November 1. It now appears to be the same story that Iran revealed on Wednesday. For Iran, the United States is “pirates”.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) boat sails at an undisclosed location off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran, August 22, 2019 (NAZANIN TABATABAEE / WANA VIA REUTERS)

The danger in these situations is that things could go wrong for Iran or the United States in these attempts by Iran to take back a ship or harass other ships. Iran has already killed two innocent crew members in an attack in July. Iran sees these waters as its backyard and likes to show that it can harass the United States or others. In May and June 2019, for example, Iran mined ships off the UAE. In October, Iran said it had intercepted a US Navy vessel. In April, the US Navy fired warning shots after Iran harassed the US ship.

Iran is seeking to increase its naval capabilities. It uses drones and fast boats, and two of its ships have recently sailed to Russia. The current tensions between Iran, the United States and Israel mean that one of these incidents could get out of hand. Iran wants to test the resolve of the United States. It is not known how the United States will react to the recent incident. It could become just another story of Iran taking over a ship, like the story of the Gulf Sky, a ship that went missing in 2020 and then reappeared in Iran.

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