A massive oil tanker is now missing after traveling through the Strait of Hormuz near the Persian Gulf and Iran. Authorities say it stopped transmitting its location and fear that Iran was involved amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the United States.
The United Arab Emirates-based, Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah made trips from Dubai and Sharjah along the UAE’s coast before it went through the Strait of Hormuz and drifted into Iranian waters, reported The Associated Press.
It’s not clear what happened to the Riah, which stopped transmitting on July 13. Several weeks ago, the United States and other world powers blamed Iran for attacking two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told AP on July 16 that the tanker hadn’t switched off its tracking during three months of trips around the UAE. Raja described the latest update as “a red flag.”
Iranian officials haven’t issued a public statement about the matter, and neither have UAE officials. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet also didn’t comment, as reported by The Guardian.
The United States sent a number of advanced fighter jets and extra troops to the region amid the oil tanker attacks and the shooing down of a military drone.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his regime would lash out after an Iranian tanker was seized near Gibraltar with the aid of the United Kingdom, as the Guardian noted.
Iran and “its committed forces will not leave this evil without a response,” he said.
Khamenei Blasts UK
According to Reuters, Khamenei on July 16 blasted the United Kingdom for its role in the tanker seizure.
“Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship … and gives it a legal appearance. Iran and those who believe in our system will not leave such evil deeds unanswered,” Khamenei said in remarks broadcast on television.
Britain also said that it will facilitate the release of a seized Iranian tanker if the country can provide guarantees the vessel would not breach European sanctions on shipments to Syria, AP reported in another article.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on July 13 said he had “constructive call” with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and told the official that “our concern was the destination, not the origin, of the oil.”
The Foreign Office added: “This was about the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions: action was taken because of where the oil was going—a sanctioned Syrian entity—not because it was from Iran.”