Iranian officials on Friday seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, claiming it bumped into a fishing boat.
Hours earlier, a British court decided to extend the detention of an Iranian oil tanker that was seized by British authorities earlier this month for attempting to carry oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
“It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region,” said British Foreign Sec. Jeremy Hunt. “We are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved.”
Iranian officials also detained a Liberian-flagged tanker on Friday and boarded the vessel before allowing it to continue. Last Sunday, officials detained a Panamanian-flagged tanker and accused its crew of smuggling oil.
On Thursday, US officials destroyed an Iranian drone after it approached a US warship sailing in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down a US drone in June.
“I think they want to break the status quo,” said Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley about Iran’s actions. “They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control. War’s not what they’re looking for.”
The US doesn’t want war either, but is boosting its defenses in the region just to be safe. On Friday, the Pentagon approved the deployment of 500 troops to Saudi Arabia, adding to the 1,000 troops sent to the Middle East in June and the aircraft carrier and bomber task force dispatched to the region in May.
In the meantime, the US is working with Saudi Arabia, the UK, and others to increase security in key Middle East waterways.
The seized British tanker and its 23 crewmen are being held at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.