Royal Navy could send more warships to Gulf as Iran issues another threat following British tanker gun standoff – The Sun
THE Royal Navy may send more warships to protect British tankers in the Gulf after Iran issued another threat following a tense tanker gun standoff.
The news comes after three Iranian gun boats swarmed passing oil tanker British Heritage late on Wednesday in an illegal bid to force it into enemy waters.
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard tried to take control of the vessel as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz – sparking a tense standoff in the Persian Gulf, US officials revealed.
The Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose – which was escorting the tanker through the flashpoint region – was forced to sail in front of the boats.
After quickly training its 30mm deck guns on the enemy boats, deploying its Wildcat helicopter and issuing a radio warning, the Iranian boats scarpered.
Currently the UK has HMS Montrose and four minehunters in the region – insufficient numbers to shadow every British tanker passing through.
Sources said Top Brass will have to decide whether to send a Destroyer to the region to enforce international rules amid feverish tensions between Iran and the West.
Meanwhile, the Department for Transport has issued new guidance to all British-flagged commercial ships to go to a heightened state of security in the Strait of Hormuz, Sky News reported.
A defence source said Iranian patrol boats were "being aggressive towards them".
While the UK is determined not to raise tensions – insiders admitted the Government must reassess its Naval footprint in the region.
A source said: “This illegal incident has sharpened minds. The Naval contribution kept in the region is kept under constant review.”
Iran has vowed to seize a British tanker after Royal Marines captured one of theirs last week off Gibraltar amid fears it was transporting oil to Syria in breach of sanctions.
Responding to the major escalation on Wednesday evening, a UK Government Spokesperson said: “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.
“HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.
“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK would monitor the situation "very carefully".
While Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said the government was "committed to maintaining freedom of navigation in accordance with international law".
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the government was concerned by the incident and urged the Iranian authorities to "de-escalate the situation".
According to the anonymous officials, the Montrose came up from the rear of the tanker and aimed its weapons at the Iranians – before issuing a verbal warning to get away.
One of the officials said: "The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed."
The other added: "It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage."
A US aircraft was flying overhead at the time and recorded footage of the standoff, the officials said.
The attempted capture comes just days after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian crude oil supertanker off Gibraltar.
Commandos dramatically detained the Grace 1 tanker over suspicions it was carrying oil to its ally Syria in violation of EU sanctions last week.
Iran later issued a chilling threat of retaliation for last Thursday's daring raid.
President Hassan Rouhani warned on Wednesday that the UK will suffer "consequences" for its actions.
He said: "I tell the British that they are the initiator of insecurity and you will understand its consequences later."
And Iran's Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned the seizure of the Grace 1 "will not go unanswered".
Gibraltar police have recently confirmed they arrested the captain and chief officer of the detained Iranian Grace 1 supertanker and have seized documents and electronic devices from the vessel.
IRAN VOWS TO HIT BACK
A deputy commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that Britain and the United States will regret detaining the oil tanker.
"Now an action that does not need ability but some stupidity has been carried out by them," Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, a deputy Guards commander, said, according to Tasnim news agency.
"The American government, and also England, should not have taken action if they had made the smallest calculation," he said.
"We had rented this ship and we carried the cargo. Their action was very silly and they will certainly regret it. Our reciprocal action will be announced."
Confirming the Montrose standoff yesterday, a Government spokesperson urged Iran to "de-escalate the situation in the region".
The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed
The Government spokesman said: "Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.
"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.
"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region."
Iran later accused "weak" Britain of lying about the incident in a bid to inflame tensions in the region.
Tehran's foreign minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif appeared to deny the Islamic Republic's boats were being confrontational.
He said: "They make a claim to create a tension that these claims are not worthwhile, and raised many claims."
Mr Zarif also said "England" was attempting to "cover their weakness " while blasting America for engaging in "economic terrorism" referring to the sanctions imposed on Tehran by Washington.
Initial reports from the US said that five Iranian vessels had harassed the tanker.
However, Iran has denied claims it was trying to seize the tanker.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the UK made the claims “for creating tension”.
He added: “These claims have no value.”
Responding to the reports, US Central Command spokesman Cpt Bill Urban said: "Threats to international freedom of navigation require an international solution.
"The world economy depends on the free flow of commerce, and it is incumbent on all nations to protect and preserve this linchpin of global prosperity."
UK defence officials have previously confirmed that the Montrose had been deployed to the region to perform a "maritime security role."
A spokesman for Theresa May said the Prime Minister is "concerned" about the incident in the Gulf and called for a "deescalation."
The British Heritage ship – operated by BP – earlier made an “abrupt” u-turn and returned to the safety of Saudi Arabia’s coastline on Sunday.
It had been heading to Iraq’s Basrah terminal when satellite trackers showed it changing course.
Tensions continue to rise between Iran and the West after the Islamic Republic last week announced it was upping its uranium enrichment programme.
Tehran plans to increase its production beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal – which the US walked away from earlier this year.
US President Donald Trump said the deal had been too soft – but it was still supported by other western backers including the UK.
MOST READ IN WORLD NEWS
ALL PRESIDENT AND CORRECT Democrat Joe Biden, 76, is running for President in 2020
HARRIS TO RUN Who is Kamala Harris? California senator who is running in the 2020 election
ALL OUT WARR How old is Elizabeth Warren and what did Trump say about her heritage?
Following Iran's announcement, Trump vowed on Wednesday that sanctions on Iran would "soon be increased, substantially!"
Last month, President Trump called off a planned airstrike on Iranian military targets at the last minute in retaliation for the shooting down of an unmanned US drone.
Iran had earlier been blamed for a series of devastating sea mine attacks on US-linked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
Source: Read Full Article