After the Gibraltar Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's effort to stop the release of an Iranian oil tanker seized by the U.K. last month, the Justice Department further escalated tensions with Tehran by issuing a warrant on Friday in a last-ditch bid to seize the tanker before it sets sail.
"Bolton is desperate to start a war," tweeted Quincy Institute executive vice president Trita Parsi, referring to President Donald Trump's national security adviser.
The warrant, unveiled by the Justice Department Friday night, states that "all petroleum aboard [the Grace 1 tanker] and $995,000.00 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), bank fraud statute, and money laundering statute, as well as separately the terrorism forfeiture statute."
According to Al Jazeera, "There was no immediate word from Britain or Gibraltar over whether they would act on the warrant, as Iran said it was sending a new crew to pilot the tanker."
As Common Dreams reported after British forces seized Grace 1 in waters east of Gibraltar last month, the U.K. alleged the tanker was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
Iran denied the accusations and said the U.K. captured Grace 1 under orders from the Trump administration.
On Thursday, the Trump Justice Department filed an appeal to seize the tanker, but the Gibraltar Supreme Court rejected the U.S. effort and ordered the release of Grace 1.
Following the court's decision, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the Trump administration of a "piracy attempt."
"Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its economic terrorism—including depriving cancer patients of medicine—the U.S. attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas," said Zarif.
On Twitter, journalist Gareth Porter said the Trump administration's warrant issued Friday "perfectly illustrates the U.S. trying to impose its domestic laws on the rest of the world."
"It should provoke worldwide outrage," Porter added.
Some of the largest maritime security firms have replaced the unarmed British guards on ships traveling in the Persian Gulf with personnel from other countries, fearing that Iran may try to kidnap UK nationals amid heightened tensions in the Middle East and its key oil shipping lanes, the companies tell the Financial Times.
Iran has seized another foreign tanker in the Gulf, Iranian state media say. A Revolutionary Guard Corps commander was quoted as saying its naval forces had "seized a foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf that was smuggling fuel for some Arab countries". It said the tanker was carrying 700,000l of fuel, adding that seven sailors had been detained.
It’s hard to know how much of the Iran situation is simply noise. The problem is that we can go from noise to a genuine crisis in the blink of an eye due to the tight geography of the Strait of Hormuz.
A British-flagged tanker has been seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, international media reported today... The US is now claiming that Iran has seized a second oil tanker.
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