STRAIT OF HORMUZ — Iran has seized a British navy vessel in the Gulf region amid rising tensions between the two nations.
According to an audio recording obtained by the U.K., Britain's Stena Impero tanker was in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 when an Iranian patrol vessel issued a radio instruction telling it to alter its direction.
Iranian authorities claimed the vessel was violating maritime rules by using an exit lane to enter the Strait, and said that they want to inspect the ship for security reasons.
Reuters cited a British letter to the U.N.
Security Council as saying that Britain's HMS Montrose then contacted the Iranian vessel in order to prevent the Iranians from boarding the ship.
The HMS Montrose warned that they would be violating international law by boarding the tanker unlawfully.
Footage obtained by Reuters shows masked Iranian Revolutionary Guards seizing the Stena Impero by descending from helicopters, similar to how British authorities captured an Iranian tanker a few weeks ago.
The ship consisted of 23 crew members who were not British citizens, Reuters reports.
The footage also showed the tanker — with an Iranian flag hoisted on top — docked in an Iranian port.
Britain called the act 'hostile' but have yet to take action against Iran.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement that while the move was "unacceptable," their priority is to "de-escalate the situation." According to Sky News, Iran has suggested that its actions were a response to the UK detaining its oil tanker on July 4, with a spokesperson for Iran's Guardian Council saying "the rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law." Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow in the Middle East North Africa Program at London's Chatham House, told CNN that Iran's behavior is designed to show it can push back.
But, she says, this dangerous strategy could backfire and instead push the U.K. and the U.S. to develop closer ties and increase coordination.