Iran claims it blocked US attempt to detain oil tanker

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The Iranian flag is seen in this June 10, 2021, file photo.

Iran’s military on Wednesday claimed that it stopped an attempt by the U.S. Navy to detain a tanker carrying Iranian oil in the Sea of Oman, an accusation the U.S. military later called “totally false.”

Tehran’s state-run Press TV said U.S. forces used helicopters and ships to try to block the tanker, which was back in Iran’s territorial waters, according to Reuters.

Press TV said Iran’s elite military arm, the Revolutionary Guards, reacted “promptly” when the oil tanker was detained.

But Pentagon press secretary John Kirby later pushed back on the assertion and said it was Iran that was the aggressor. 

“I’ve seen the claims, they are absolutely, totally false and untrue,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. “There was no such effort by U.S. naval assets to seize anything.” 

Kirby said Iran was referring to an Oct. 24 incident during which the U.S. Navy monitored Iranian forces “illegally boarding and seizing a merchant vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman.”

The U.S. 5th Fleet then directed two ships and aerial assets to closely monitor the situation. 

“At no time were U.S. forces attempting to retake or otherwise engage in the situation. We acted completely in accordance with the law. So it’s a bogus claim,” Kirby said.

He added that Iran’s actions “constitute a blatant violation of international law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce. The only seizing that was done was by Iran.”

The Iranian media outlet, meanwhile, said members of its naval forces “carried out a heliborne operation on the detained tanker’s deck, gained control of the vessel, and directed it back toward Iran’s territorial waters.” 

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have recently spiked over Iran’s return to talks to restart an Obama-era nuclear deal. The pact would have Iran dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to inspections in exchange for sanctions relief. 

Former President Trump pulled the U.S out of the deal in 2018, saying that it would not stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Iran’s top national security official said Wednesday that talks to rejoin the nuclear deal are doomed without “guarantees” from President Biden that the United States would not backtrack on the agreement again.

Updated 5:40 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Joe Biden John Kirby Maritime security

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