Iran warns UK not to play a ‘dangerous game’ as tensions rise after seizure of oil tanker
Iran has warned the UK not to enter a ‘dangerous game’ as it plans to send another Royal Navy warship to the Gulf amid escalating tensions.
Tehran has threatened to disrupt the shipping of oil around the region after the failed attempt on Wednesday to seize a British tanker.
HMS Montrose thwarted the bid and the vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard retreated from the waters around the Strait of Hormuz.
Downing Street is said to be concerned and there are now plans to dispatch Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region to relieve Montrose.
At Friday prayers, cleric Kazem Sedighi told worshippers in Tehran that Britain will soon be ‘slapped in the face’ for the capture of an Iranian oil tanker last week.
The Grace 1, was stopped in an operation involving the Royal Marines in Gibraltar.
The vessel was suspected of violating EU sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian oil to war-ravaged Syria.
Gibraltar police have arrested four crew members, all Indian nationals, from the ship and say tests confirm it had 2.1million barrels of light crude oil on board.
Iran wants the tanker back and condemned its seizure as an ‘illegal interception.’
President Hassan Rouhini has also warned Britain of ‘consequences’ over what happened in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory.
HMS Duncan now looks to be heading out to the region earlier than planned, sources have said.
The Government officially confirmed that Duncan, currently in the Black Sea, will relieve Montrose in the Gulf so the Type 23 frigate can undergo planned maintenance and crew changes.
Duncan, a Type 45 air defence destroyer, is considered to be one of the most advanced warships in the world, according to the Royal Navy.
The force also has another four vessels in the area.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain wants to ‘de-escalate’ the ‘serious’ situation.
The Tory leadership contender added that sending HMS Duncan was ‘about our responsibility to do everything we can to protect British shipping’.
Iran has denied it attempted to ‘impede’ the passage of the British Heritage tanker.
It has also denied it was sending oil to Syria and has demanded the release of the Grace 1 tanker.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: ‘The documents and evidence and the contradictory remarks made by the British all indicate that London’s allegation, legally speaking, is not that significant and noteworthy unless they would want to enter into a dangerous game under the influence of the Americans with no end in sight.’
Tensions started to build between Iran and the west after US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 deal, which curbed Iran’s nuclear programme.
He then imposed crippling economic sanctions and ordered all countries to halt the purchase of Iranian oil.
That has now effectively starved the Iranian economy of the main source of revenue that Tehran uses to import food for its 81 million population.
That has left Iran with no benefits to show for agreeing to the nuclear arrangement, which is now under threat.
The US is threatening more sanctions, which were first imposed because of questions about how the Revolutionary Guard is funded.
The US is now pushing its allies, including the US, to step up security in the Strait of Hormuz and safeguard the strategic waters off Iran and Yemen.
A Downing Street spokeswoman spoke of the Government’s concerns in the region about Iran.
She said: ‘We are concerned about the threats that they are making to disrupt shipping in the area and we have been urging them to de-escalate the situation in the region.