New video from Iran shows Guard warning away UK warship
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — In new video and audio released Monday, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer is heard telling a British warship not to interfere or put their “life in danger” as the paramilitary force, using speedboats and a helicopter, seized a U.K.-flagged commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month.
The video includes a shot apparently filmed on the day of the July 19 incident from above the British warship Foxtrot 236 that was in the vicinity of the U.K.-flagged Stena Impero, showing the British navy unable to prevent Iran’s seizure of the ship in the critical waterway.
It also offers new glimpses into the tense exchange that took place between the British Navy and the Iranian Guard during the seizure.
The Stena Impero was seized as it transited the Strait of Hormuz, which lies between Iran and Oman. The narrow waterway is of critical importance to the world’s energy supplies because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the strait.
Tensions in the strait have soared as Iran faces economic pressures from President Donald Trump’s decisions to withdraw the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and impose sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports, among other key industries.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told an audience in Washington on Monday that the U.S. is “going to build out a maritime security plan” to secure the strait.
“It will take more time than we wish it would take, but I’m very confident that the world understands its importance, and that America is prepared to be a significant part of that, but we need countries from all across the world to assist us,” he said.
In the nearly two-minute video released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an officer is heard telling the British warship Foxtrot: “You are ordered to not interfere in my operation.” The Iranian officer repeats: “You are required not to interfere in this issue.”
“This is British warship Foxtrot 236. I am in vicinity of the internationally recognized strait with a merchant vessel in my vicinity conducting transit passage,” a British officer responds.
The Iranian officer is then heard saying: “Don’t put your life in danger.” He is also heard saying the commercial ship is under Iranian control.
The audio appeared to have been edited, leaving out parts of the exchange released last week by London-based firm Dryad Global where a British officer is heard telling the Iranian Guard its forces must not impair, impede or obstruct the passage of the Stena Impero in a recognized international strait.
The Guard had previously released video of the incident showing Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the ship.
This latest video and audio comes just days after the U.K. dispatched an additional warship to the region to accompany British-flagged ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the HMS Duncan will join the frigate HMS Montrose in the Persian Gulf to defend freedom of navigation until a diplomatic resolution is found to secure the key waterway.
Britain has figured prominently in rising U.S. tensions with Iran ever since British Royal Marines took part in the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar, a British overseas territory. Officials there initially said the July 4 seizure happened on orders from the U.S. The U.K. says the tanker was suspected of violating sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Iranian officials, meanwhile, have alleged the Stena Impero was seized after it violated international maritime law by turning off its signaling for longer than is allowed and passing through the wrong channels. Iranian officials have also suggested the ship was seized in response to Britain’s role in impounding the Iranian supertanker two weeks earlier.
Both sides have called the interception of one another’s ships “hostile acts” and “piracy.”
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Kali Robinson in Washington contributed to this report.