The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has denied that its ships were involved in any type of confrontation with British ships in the Persian Gulf on July 11. The public relations office of the IRGC navy said its forces were conducting their normal routines and “in the last 24 hours have not encountered any foreign boats.” Had the IRGC navy intended to seize a British boat, the statement read, its forces would do so “without delay, with firmness and with speed.”
According to British authorities, Iranian boats attempted to impede a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf but were driven off by the HMS Montrose. The British Ministry of Defense said the Iranian boats attempted to bring the BP-owned tanker to a halt as it was attempting to exit the Persian Gulf near the island of Abu Musa and pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the British claims about the incident. “They put forward a claim to increase tensions, and this claim has no value and they have presented these claims many times,” Zarif said to reporters when asked about it.
Tensions have increased between Iran and the UK after an Iranian oil tanker was seized by the UK off the coast of Gibraltar last week. The tanker was carrying 2 million barrels of crude to Syria. Iran has demanded that the vessel be returned, arguing that it is not subject to EU sanctions on exporting oil to the Syrian government.
The seizure of the vessel has put President Hassan Rouhani's administration under pressure from the country’s hard-liners. Rouhani addressed the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker during a speech on July 10, saying, “I tell the British, you are starting instability and you will understand its consequences later.” Rouhani also said it is possible the British seized the tanker after being told to do so by the United States, but that “either way, seizing the Iranian tanker was an idiotic thing to do.”
Rouhani’s speech did little to ease the criticism from conservatives, however. The Assembly of Experts issued a statement after a July 11 meeting calling on Rouhani to adopt a “resistance model like that of the downing of the invading American drone” in response to the seizure of the Iranian tanker. The statement didn’t clarify what that model would entail.
Deputy Commander of the IRGC Ali Fadavi also spoke about the seizure of the tanker, linking it as both an American and British action. He said, “They took an action that does not need any strength; it only needs stupidity, which is a quality the American president in every sense and also the British have.” Fadavi continued, “If the enemy had conducted the smallest calculations, they would not have taken such an action. They will regret it deeply.”
Ever since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal — which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — and Iranian announcements that they will reduce their commitments to the deal unless they derive the economic benefits of it, tensions between Iran and the United States have increased. While European countries have sought to reduce tensions between the two countries, Iran has insisted they are in the right. “We didn’t leave the negotiation table,” Zarif told reporters July 11. “[The US] was participating in P5+1 joint commission meetings until March 2018; they left the table themselves, and in order to deceive, they claim they’re ready to talk.”