An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander threatened on Friday to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture of an Iranian supertanker by Royal Marines in Gibraltar, Reuters reported.
“If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities’ duty to seize a British oil tanker,” the commander, Mohsen Rezai, wrote on Twitter.
The comments come a day after the British naval force seized an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar on suspicion that it was carrying crude oil to Syria in what may be the first such interception under EU sanctions.
The Gibraltar government said the crew on board the supertanker Grace 1 were being interviewed as witnesses, not criminal suspects, in an effort to establish the nature of the cargo and its ultimate destination, according to Reuters.
The detention of the tanker angered Iran, which condemned the move as an "illegal interception" and summoned the British ambassador in protest.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the crude oil cargo was from Iran. The ship’s paperwork had said the oil was from neighboring Iraq, but tracking data reviewed by Reuters suggested it had loaded at an Iranian port.
The incident comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it will breach the maximum uranium enrichment level it agreed to in a 2015 nuclear deal.
The US left the 2015 nuclear deal last year, and Iran has been pushing the deal's remaining partners -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – to help it circumvent US sanctions, especially to sell its oil.
Meanwhile, Gibraltar said on Friday it had obtained an order extending the detention of the supertanker by 14 days because there were grounds to believe it was breaking sanctions by taking crude oil to Syria.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)