Iran today paraded the crew of a British-flagged tanker capture in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.
A picture taken inside the Stena Impero shows part of the 23-strong crew huddled on the floor under the watchful eye of a Revolutionary Guardsman.
The men are seen sitting cross-legged on the bridge of the vessel having had their shoes removed and piled up nearby.
The photo is the latest taunt by Iran to Britain after the regime also aired footage of their flag being raised over the vessel.
On Monday Iran also broadcast footage of the Muslim call to prayer being played from the tanker’s speakers.
Iran seized the ship in retaliation for its own vessel, the Grace 1, being stopped by Royal Marine off the coast of Gibraltar last month in which it says was an operation carried out on behalf of the US. Britain says the ship was violating EU sanctions.
On board: Iranian official talks to crew members inside the seized UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero off the coast of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran
Keeping watch: An Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boat sails in front of the Stena Impero, the UK-flagged vessel which was seized by Iranian authorities on Friday
The family of one of the crewmen – Deena and husband Pappachan – were pictured weeping at their home in Kochi, India, while watching news about the tanker on TV
The photo was released as:
- Russia waded into the rift on Monday to take Iran’s side, accusing Britain of engaging in piracy
- Theresa May chaired a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss strategy
- Boris Johnson prepared to take over as Tory party leader, meaning he will be responsible for handling the crisis
- Tony Blair said the future of Iran’s nuclear deal could be a way to exert diplomatic pressure on Tehran
- Relatives of one of the crewmen were pictured weeping as they watched news of the tanker’s capture on TV
- Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West led criticism that the Royal Navy is no longer fit for purpose and cannot protect British interests
Speaking in Caracas, Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov insisted Iran was merely ‘taking care of ecology’ in the Gulf and said ‘Iran’s arguments are much more right than those of Gibraltar and London who are indulging in piracy’.
The tanker row – the latest in a series of threats to Middle East shipping – has sent tensions spiralling further amid furious exchanges of rhetoric over the crumbling nuclear deal with Iran.
Yesterday the Iranian flag was hoisted over the Stena with Iranian armed forces patrolling the decks in the heavily-guarded port of Bandar Abbas.
Video footage released by Iran showed the tanker being surrounded by speedboats before troops in balaclavas descend a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel.
In a radio exchange, an Iranian officer can be heard telling the tanker to change course.
‘You are ordered: change your course… immediately. If you obey, you will be safe,’ he said.
The British frigate HMS Montrose intervenes to inform the Stena its ‘passage must not be impaired, impeded, obstructed or hampered’ under international law.
The Iranians then tell the British warship: ‘No challenge is intended… I want to inspect the ship for security reason.’
Flashpoint: The Stena Impero, the UK-flagged tanker at the centre of the latest Middle East tensions, is seen at a heavily guarded Iranian port
On deck: The Stena is seen with an Iranian Revolutionary Guard boat beside it after it was captured on Friday
The Montrose was too far away to physically stop the seizure.
Iran impounded the Stena on allegations it failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.
Its crew is made up of 18 Indians, including the captain, three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino.
A top British representative to the UN rejected Iran’s version of events, accusing Tehran of ‘illegal interference’ and saying there was no evidence of a collision.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, British charge d’affaires Jonathan Allen wrote that the vessel had been in Omani waters with its transponder switched on when it was approached.
A second oil tanker, the Liberian-flagged Mesdar, which is managed by Norbulk Shipping UK, veered off course towards the Iranian coast after it was boarded by armed guards at around 5.30pm on Friday.
The Stena Impero was surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces at 4pm and ordered to head north on Friday. A second British-managed vessel, Mesdar, abruptly changed course towards Iran
Russian deputy foreign ministery Sergei Ryabkov (pictured) took Iran’s side over the tanker
Footage showed troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns (pictured) rappelling to its deck from a helicopter before capturing the British-registered oil tanker on Friday night
The Mesdar’s Glasgow-based operator said communication had since been re-established with the ship and the crew were unharmed.
Britain has warned its ships to avoid the Straits of Hormuz, a chokepoint for about a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.
UK authorities intercepted the Grace 1 on July 4, saying it was violating EU sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to
A detachment of Royal Marines from 42 Commando boarded the vessel off Gibraltar in a joint operation with the Royal Gibraltar Police.
Gibraltar’s government said tests showed the supertanker was fully loaded with crude oil.
But Iran has insisted that the tanker was not headed for Syria.
Theresa May will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra on Monday amid concern over how Iran was able to capture the ship.
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said the UK had vessels going through 100 nautical miles of waterway every day in the region, adding: ‘It is impossible simply to escort each individual vessel.’
Britain only has the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose in the region plus four mine hunters, while the US as its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain – which includes one aircraft carrier, one missile cruiser, five destroyers, two amphibious vessels and two or three submarines
He also called for more money to be invested in the Royal Navy if Britain wants to continue to play a role on the international stage.
Tankers in the Gulf have come under attack repeatedly in recent weeks, in explosions which Britain and America have blamed on Iran.
A UAE investigation found four mysterious sabotage attacks on May 12 were linked to a ‘state actor’ but did not name Iran.
The attacks were carried out with limpet mines and were ‘part of a sophisticated and coordinated operation’, the report found.
The tanker attacks inflamed an already tense Middle East stand-off and prompted the U.S. to bolster its military presence in the region.
Matters worsened just four weeks later when another two ships were hit by explosions in the Gulf of Oman.
Forty-four sailors were forced to abandon their ships amid a huge fireball on the MT Front Altair and another blast on the Kokuka Courageous.
America again blamed Iran, releasing a video which purported to show Iranian revolutionary guard forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the ships.
The Ministry of Defence released this photo of HMS Montrose warding off Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats (circled) which harassed the UK-flagged tanker British Heritage on July 10
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard uses a large number of high-speed small vessels to harass shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. The regime launched these ‘ultra-fast’ boats in 2010
Meanwhile tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions have also been heightening as Tehran moves ever further away from its 2015 nuclear deal.
After Donald Trump quit the nuclear deal in 2018, the U.S. administration reimposed tough sanctions on Iran, which retaliated by increasing its enrichment of uranium beyond limits set in the nuclear accord.
Iran has said that it could restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent.
But Major General Hossein Salami, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, denied Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic downed a U.S. drone.
Today former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the future of Iran’s nuclear deal could be a way to exert diplomatic pressure on Tehran.
‘We have one substantial card in our hands, which is that the Iranians have been trying to get the British and the Europeans to keep to the Iran nuclear deal,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘Therefore actually their attempt to interfere with a British-flagged ship is obviously wrong, not just in principle, but it’s obviously a political gamble for them.’
He added that the UK would have to make special arrangements to escort shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.