On Sunday, Aug. 4, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard announced the capture of an Iraqi oil tanker that was reportedly smuggling fuel. The ship carrying 185,000 gallons of fuel was manned by seven people who were eventually arrested. The news comes in the middle of an escalation of tension with the West.

According to Reuters, Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars reported that the oil tanker was successfully intercepted near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. The Revolutionary Guard has a naval base there that is located to the north of the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian Navy vessels detected the smuggler’s ship while conducting patrol operations to ensure control of the illicit traffic.

Gen. Ramazan Zirahi, commander of the Guard, told state television: “This foreign vessel had received fuel from other ships and was transferring it to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.” He also stated that the ship was carrying 700,000 liters of fuel (185,000 gallons).

“The capture of the tanker was coordinated with the Iranian judicial authorities. The tanker was transferred to the Bushehr port, where its fuel was handed over to the authorities,” Zirahi added.

Escalating tension with the West

On July 18, the Revolutionary Guard captured a United Arab Emirates-based ship for smuggling 264,000 gallons of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers, Fox News reported.

The following week, a British-flagged vessel was detained by Iranian naval authorities and, as Fox News points out, Iranian officials have arranged for its capture in retaliation for the British Royal Navy’s forces capturing an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar.

In the face of Iran’s actions, the United Kingdom carried out the capture of the vessel as there were suspicions that the Iranian tanker violated the sanctions applied by the European Union with regard to shipments of oil to Syria. 

According to The Telegraph, 20% of world oil consumption passes through the Strait of Hormuz. In this sense, Iran made an appeal to the international community urging them not to take into account the calls of the United States to stop buying Iranian oil, otherwise it threatened to block all exports that enter through the strait between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

Such statements come amid the tensions that have been building between Iran and the United States since the latter withdrew from the international nuclear agreement in exchange for new economic sanctions for the Islamic Republic.

The new U.S.-determined sanctions initially instituted with a view to reducing Iran’s nuclear capability were accentuated after Iranian naval forces attacked a Japanese vessel in June that also affected another Norwegian vessel, according to the U.S. Army Central Command.

Coordinated attacks from Tehran that also resulted in the downing of an unmanned U.S. airplane led  President Trump to approve a cyberattack as an offensive to Iran’s actions, according to The Daily Signal.

In the same scenario of tensions, President Trump invited the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss the current situation between the two countries, but it was rejected. According to a report published in The New Yorker magazine, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, designated by Trump as an intermediary with Iran, extended the invitation to Zarif during a meeting at Iran’s residence, but he refused the invitation after consulting with Tehran.

According to The Hill, last month Iran announced that it planned to increase its uranium enrichment and reserves; a nuclear monitor from the international agency in charge of overseeing Iran’s compliance with the Obama-era nuclear agreement confirmed earlier this month that the Islamic Republic had exceeded the enrichment levels agreed to in the agreement.