The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran has seized a foreign oil tanker, Iranian news media reported on Thursday, days after a United Arab Emirates vessel disappeared, raising the stakes in the running conflict that has pitted Iran against some of its regional neighbors and the United States.
Several state news organizations in Iran reported the seizure of the tanker, based on a statement from the Revolutionary Guards, which claimed that the ship was smuggling one million liters of oil.
The reports did not identify the tanker or its nationality, so it was not immediately clear whether the statement referred to the Emirati ship, the Riah, which has not been heard from since it was traveling in the Persian Gulf late Saturday. The Iranian state news agency Al Alam reported that the Revolutionary Guards seized the ship on Sunday.
In its statement, the Revolutionary Guards denied Western news reports about a tanker seized over the weekend, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported — an apparent reference to the Emirati vessel, indicating that the tanker seized on Sunday was a different ship.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Iranian forces over the weekend had come to the aid of a ship in distress and towed it to shore for repairs. The ministry did not identify the ship or the nation it hailed from, making it unclear in that case, as well, whether the vessel was the missing Emirati tanker.
There has been widespread speculation that the Riah was taken by Iran.
Iranian officials have threatened to disrupt shipments from the gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, which carries about 20 percent of the world’s oil, in retaliation for United States sanctions.
American officials have blamed Iran for apparent attacks on tankers in May and June, which followed new sanctions imposed by President Trump that aimed to cut off Iran’s ability to sell oil, a pillar of its economy.
Two weeks ago, British forces seized an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, charging that it was violating European Union sanctions against Syria. Iranian officials called for the seizure of a British ship as retribution, and the British Navy reported last week that one of its ships had chased away Iranian boats that were trying to impede a British tanker.
The Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that the tanker seizure on Sunday took place near Kharg Island in the northern part of the gulf, a major transit hub for Iranian oil.
Other Iranian news organizations said the seizure took place about 400 miles to the southeast, near Larak Island in the Strait of Hormuz.