Iran seizes 2 Greek tankers in Persian Gulf as tensions rise

May 27, 2022, 9:28 AM | Updated: 10:51 pm
The Greek-flagged oil tanker Prudent Warrior, background, is seen as it sails past Istanbul, Turkey...

The Greek-flagged oil tanker Prudent Warrior, background, is seen as it sails past Istanbul, Turkey, April 19, 2019. Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers on Friday, May 27, 2022, in helicopter-launched raids in the Persian Gulf, according to officials. The actions were an apparent retaliation for Athens assisting the U.S. in seizing Iranian crude oil in the Mediterranean Sea over violating Washington's crushing sanctions on the Islamic Republic. (Dursun Çam via AP)

(Dursun Çam via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers Friday in helicopter-launched raids in the Persian Gulf, officials said. The action appeared to be retaliation for Athens’ assistance in the U.S. seizure of crude oil from an Iranian-flagged tanker this week in the Mediterranean Sea over violating Washington’s crushing sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The raid marks the first major incident at sea in months as tensions remain high between Iran and the West over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. As Tehran enriches more uranium, closer to weapons-grade levels than ever before, worries mount that negotiators won’t find a way back to the accord — raising the risk of a wider war.

The Guard issued a statement announcing the seizures, accusing the tankers of unspecified violations. Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned a short time earlier that Tehran planned to take “punitive action” over Greece assisting the U.S. in seizing oil days earlier from the Iranian-flagged tanker Lana.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it made a strong demarche to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Persian Gulf. “These acts effectively amount to acts of piracy,” a ministry statement said.

The ministry called for the immediate release of the vessels and their crews, warning the seizure would have “particularly negative consequences” in bilateral relations and in Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member.

An Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon in international waters, some 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran, the ministry said.

“Armed men then took the crew captive,” it said, adding that two Greek nationals were among the crew.

“A similar incident has been reported on another Greek-flagged vessel, that was carrying seven Greek citizens, close to the coast of Iran,” the ministry said.

A Greek official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the attack with a journalist, identified the second ship as the Prudent Warrior. Its manager, Polembros Shipping in Greece, earlier said the company was “cooperating with the authorities and making every possible effort to address the situation effectively.”

Greek officials did not identify the nationalities of the other crew on board the vessels.

Both vessels had come from Iraq’s Basra oil terminal, loaded with crude, according to tracking data from MarineTraffic.com. Prudent Warrior just before had been off Qatar and likely loaded oil there as well, the data showed.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said it appeared the two ships had come close to — but not into — Iranian territorial waters Friday. After the hijacking, they drifted into Iranian waters. The ships also had turned off their tracking devices — another red flag, the official said. However, neither had issued a mayday or a call for help, the official said.

Iran’s seizure on Friday was the latest in a string of hijackings and explosions to roil a region that includes the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes. The incidents began after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The U.S. Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as for a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed two European crew members in 2021.

Iranian hijackers also stormed and briefly captured a Panama-flagged asphalt tanker off the United Arab Emirates last year, and briefly seized and held a Vietnamese tanker in November.

Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a wider shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the region’s volatile waters. Tanker seizures have been a part of it since 2019, when Iran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero after the United Kingdom detained an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar. Iran released the tanker months later as London also released the Iranian vessel.

Iran last year also seized and held a South Korean-flagged tanker for months amid a dispute over billions of dollars of frozen assets Seoul holds.

“This incident is assessed to be a retaliatory action in line with a history of Iranian forces detaining vessels in a tit-for-tat manner,” maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global warned. “As a result, Greek-flagged vessels operating within the vicinity of Iran in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman are currently assessed to be at a heightened risk of interception and it is advised to avoid this area until further notice.”

Underlining that threat, Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency warned in a tweet: “There are still 17 other Greek ships in the Persian Gulf that could be seized.”

Meanwhile, the Guard is building a massive new support ship near the Strait of Hormuz as it tries to expand its naval presence in waters vital to international energy supplies and beyond, according to satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press.

Talks in Vienna over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal have been stalled since April. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran runs advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing stockpile of enriched uranium. Nonproliferation experts warn Iran has enriched enough up to 60% purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90% — to make one nuclear weapon if it choose.

Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, though United Nations experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program through 2003.

Building a nuclear bomb would still take Iran more time if it pursued a weapon, analysts say, though they warn Tehran’s advances make the program more dangerous. Israel has threatened in the past it will carry out a preemptive strike to stop Iran — and already is suspected in a series of recent killings targeting Iranian officials.

___

Paphitis reported from Athens, Greece. Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

An Amtrak train which derailed after striking a dump truck is seen beyond a corn field Monday, June...
Associated Press

NTSB investigators look into fatal Missouri Amtrak accident

MENDON, Mo. (AP) — Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were in Missouri Tuesday trying to determine how an Amtrak train carrying more than 200 people slammed into a dump truck, killing two train passengers and the truck driver. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago Monday afternoon when it struck […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Nissan recalls about 323K SUVs; hoods can open unexpectedly

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nissan is recalling nearly 323,000 Pathfinder SUVs in the U.S. because the hoods can unexpectedly fly open and block the driver’s view. The recall covers Pathfinders from the 2013 through 2016 model years. The automaker says in documents posted Tuesday by U.S. safety regulators that dust and dirt can accumulate on the […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Shoppers shop at a retail store in Niles, Ill., on Feb. 19, 2022.   U.S. consumer confidence...
Associated Press

US consumer confidence tested as economic anxiety grows

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers were less confident again in June as persistent inflation and rising interest rates have Americans as pessimistic as they’ve been about the future in almost a decade. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index slipped to 98.7 in June from 103.2 in May, the second straight monthly […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Biden arrives in Spain looking to buck up weary NATO allies

MADRID (AP) — President Joe Biden arrived in Spain on Tuesday to meet with fellow leaders of NATO with plans to beef up the American presence in Europe at a moment of growing concern about the alliance’s resolve in the face of the grinding war in Ukraine. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said […]
8 hours ago
The Nirvana, a sleek 88-meter-long superyacht worth about $300 million, owned by Vladimir Potanin, ...
Associated Press

Yacht of wealthiest Russian oligarch docked in haven Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The man considered to be the wealthiest oligarch in Russia, who has been photographed playing ice hockey with President Vladimir Putin, joins a growing list of those transferring — or, sailing — their prized assets to Dubai as the West tightens its massive sanctions program on Russia’s economy. Vladimir […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Ukraine to start electricity trading with EU neighbors

BRUSSELS (AP) — Ukraine will start trading electricity with neighboring European countries later this week as it continues to move away from Russia’s sphere of influence, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) said on Tuesday. The Belgian-based association, which represents dozens of transmission system operators in Europe, said the first phase […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Iran seizes 2 Greek tankers in Persian Gulf as tensions rise