Tensions Escalate as Iran Seizes another Tanker in Red Sea

(ConservativeInsider.org) – On Thursday, January 11th, the Iranian navy captured an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman that was at the center of a dispute between the United States and Iran last year.

The dispute was over the US seizing the ship as well as its crude oil contents last year over accusations that Iran was violating sanctions the US had placed against it due to their nuclear program. The dispute lasted for nearly a year and resulted in the US seizing one million barrels of Iranian crude oil.

The ship was originally named the Suez Rajan but was renamed the St. Nikolas. It is run by Empire Navigation, a Greek shipping company. The company acknowledged that they lost contact with the ship, which has a crew of 19 people, 18 of whom are Filipinos and one of whom is a Greek national. The Suez Rajan came under scrutiny in February 2022, when activist group United Against Nuclear Iran accused the ship of smuggling sanctioned crude oil from Iran. In September 2023, Empire Navigation pled guilty to charges that they were indeed smuggling crude oil and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine.

Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, reported that the ship was taken “in retaliation for the theft of oil by the American regime” as part of a judicial order, and the oil will be delivered to Iran’s judicial authorities. A statement from Iran to the United Nations called it a “lawful undertaking.”

This dispute comes at a time of high tensions due to the war between Israel and Gaza. Iran, who is vehemently anti-Israel, have been supporting Houthi rebels in attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea, which they claim is retaliation for the war against Hamas. Some executives in the oil industry have publicly worried that if the war between Israel and Gaza spreads further into a regional conflict, it will affect the crude oil exports in the area.

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