Iran Seizes Oil Tanker, Says It’s Retaliating Against U.S.: Report
Manuel Augusto Moreno/GettyImages

 The Iranian Navy claimed on Thursday to have seized an American oil tanker in the waters of the Sea of Oman, according to the Mehr news agency, a semi-official news agency of the Iranian government.

The report said Iran claimed the seizure of the St. Nikolas, previously named the Suez Rajan, was in retaliation for the “violation of the Suez Rajan ship in May of this year and the theft of Iranian oil by the United States.” According to The New York Times, the ship is actually registered in the Marshall Islands and is run by a company that is not American.

Mehrs said Iran cited a court order and the approval of the Ports and Shipping Organization by the Strategic Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army as justification for the seizure of the ship, which was loaded with Iraqi crude oil destined for Turkey adding that the ship was “being transferred to the ports of the Islamic Republic for delivery to the judicial authorities.”

“UK Maritime Trade Operations said on Thursday it had received a report that four to five ‘unauthorized persons,’ reportedly wearing ‘military style black uniforms with black masks,’ had boarded the ship at 03:30 GMT,” the BBC reported, adding, “They added that communications with the vessel had been lost and the authorities were investigating.”

“We condemn this apparent seizure. The Iranian government should immediately release the ship and its crew,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday. “These provocative and unacceptable actions need to stop. We’ll continue to work with our allies and partners to deter and confront the full range of Iran’s concerning and destabilizing behavior in close coordination, of course, with the international community.”

Last April, the United States confiscated the Suez Rajan, which was transporting over 980,000 barrels of contraband Iranian crude oil covertly sent by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, to an entity abroad.

The DOJ stated:

The complaint alleges a scheme involving multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s IRGC and the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to covertly sell and transport Iranian oil to a customer abroad. Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, false automatic identification system reporting, falsified documents and other means. The complaint further alleges that the charterer of the vessel used the U.S. financial system to facilitate the transportation of Iranian oil.

After the U.S. confiscated the ship, a senior commander of the IRGC navy said Iran would retaliate against any oil company that unloaded Iranian oil from a tanker that had been confiscated.

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