Iran has confirmed reports that the US had seized its tanker and transferred oil to another vessel, which was then taken to an “unknown place.”
The government said the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had taken control of the Iranian tanker in an operation using helicopters. It was then returned to Iranian waters.
Earlier Iran’s state-owned Press TV said the IRGC had successfully chased off American forces in the Sea of Oman, and accused the US of attempting to steal Iranian oil.
The IRGC had “thwarted” an attempt by the US to take command of a giant oil tanker and moved it back into Iranian waters, the broadcaster said. Press TV’s live news show reported that helicopters had pursued the vessel.
The Mehr News Agency said Iranian rapid-response speedboats had overwhelmed the American forces, and that footage would be published shortly. It reported that the US had tried to block the movement of the tanker by placing warships in its way.
The US barred Iranian oil exports as part of the crippling series of sanctions it imposed on Tehran following former president Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear pact, which put constraints on Iran’s atomic ambitions. The US also threatened to sanction any country that purchased Iranian oil.
Iran has vowed to continue exporting oil – a vital source of revenue for the government – despite the sanctions. On a number of occasions, the US has successfully intercepted and seized vessels carrying Iranian oil.