A U.S. defense official has confirmed news that Iranian forces seized an oil tanker in the Sea of Oman last week but said U.S. forces just observed the incident and did not confront the Revolutionary Guard.Members of the IRGC conduct a joint exercise with Russian forces.
The semiofficial Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting outlet first reported Wednesday that U.S. forces confiscated a tanker carrying Iranian oil in the Sea of Oman and then transferred it to another tanker.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces were said to have then carried out a helicopter landing on the second vessel, allowing them to take control and steer it back toward Iranian waters, thus avoiding U.S. warships and aircraft that then reportedly gave chase.
The Iranian report said that the ship reached Iranian waters on October 25. The U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, laid out a counternarrative of the event.
“We’re refuting the Iranian claims that they prevented us from taking back this vessel,” the official said. “Here’s the bottom line. This occurred last week. U.S. naval forces in the Gulf of Oman observed Iranian naval forces seize this oil tanker.” The official described what responding U.S. forces observed.
“There were over 10 Iranian fast boats that swarmed this thing,” the official said. “There was a helicopter seen flying around, and, bottom line, our forces responded to monitor the situation.”
The official said that the U.S. declined to release the details of the incident last week “due to a number of sensitivities.” The official added that “Iran is now spinning this against us, saying that they prevented us from taking back this vessel when it’s very clear that our forces were simply there monitoring.”
The U.S. has previously confiscated a number of tankers carrying Iranian oil, accusing them of violating U.S. sanctions that restrict the Islamic Republic from exporting its natural resources. These measures date back to former President Donald Trump’s 2018 abandonment of a nuclear deal forged three years earlier by his predecessor with Iran and major powers China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.
President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the landmark accord was reached, has publicly set out to reenter it, but six rounds of negotiations have so far failed to establish enough common ground to do so. Meanwhile, Iran has begun enriching uranium at levels beyond those set in the deal, though the country maintains it does not seek a nuclear weapon.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the top diplomat of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, said Tehran’s team would return to the Vienna talks this month.