A former leader of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said on Friday that the Islamic Republic should consider seizing a British oil tanker in response to authorities detaining an Iranian oil tanker off the coast Gibraltar.
The comments by Mohsen Rezaei came amid heightened tensionsover Iran’s unravelling 2015 nuclear deal, which the US withdrew from lastyear.
In recent days, Iran has broken through the limit the dealput on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and plans on Sunday to boost itsenrichment.
In the past months, the US has rushed thousands ofadditional troops, an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jetsto the region.
Rezaei made his comments in a tweet Friday.
“If England does not release the Iranian oil tanker,the duty … (of Iran) is to respond and seize one English oil tanker,” hesaid.
Rezaei led the Guard during Iran’s 1980s “TankerWar” in the Persian Gulf targeting the oil trade of the U.S. And its Araballies.
It was a striking comment from Rezaei, one that currentofficials have yet to make. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman earlier called onthe UK to release the tanker.
Authorities in Gibraltar intercepted the super tanker onThursday, saying they believed it to be breaching European Union sanctions bycarrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said theseizure came at the request of the U.S.
A spokesman for the government of Gibraltar, who wasn’tauthorised to be identified by name in media reports, said that all 28 crewmembers remain on the vessel while being interviewed as witnesses and notquestioned under criminal procedures.
The crew is made of mainly Indian, Pakistani and Ukrainiannationals, he said.
A local newspaper, the Gibraltar Chronicle, reported Fridaythat the supertanker can only be detained for 72 hours unless the Supreme Courtof the British overseas territory extends the deadline while the probe isconducted.
US national security adviser John Bolton tweeted that theship’s seizure was “excellent news.”
“America & our allies will continue to preventregimes in Tehran & Damascus from profiting off this illicit trade,”Bolton added.
The vessel likely carried just over 2 million barrels ofIranian crude oil, the data firm Refinitv said. Tracking data showed that thetanker made a slow trip around the southern tip of Africa before reaching theMediterranean, it said.
Meanwhile, fears over a miscalculation sparking a widerconflict in the Persian Gulf have grown. Oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuzhave been targeted in mysterious attacks, which the US says Iran is behind, anaccusation denied by Tehran.
Last month Iran shot down a US surveillance drone.
Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, an adviser toIran’s supreme leader and Tehran’s Friday prayer leader, brought up the droneshootdown during prayers.
He said the reason that the US did not attack Iran after wasbecause Trump fears Iran’s ballistic missile stockpile.
“When Iranian missiles are able to hit a stealth dronethousands of feet in the air, how easy would it be to hit an aircraft carrierin the sea?” he asked.