Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The British warship was said to have been less than 5 miles behind the tanker but soon intercepted the Iranian boats and threatened to open fire. A manned U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was above as well, the official said, adding that Iranian forces left without opening fire.
Navy Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said the military was aware of the reported actions. He added, “Threats to international freedom of navigation require an international solution. The world economy depends on the free flow of commerce, and it is incumbent on all nations to protect and preserve this lynchpin of global prosperity.”
The British frigate was identified as the HMS Montrose, according to The Sun. The vessel reportedly trained its 30mm deck guns on the enemy fleet and warned them off.
The incident was the latest in a series of provocations between the Islamic Republic and the West. British forces last week seized an Iranian supertanker that officials believed was operating in violation of European Union sanctions. The British Royal Marines captured the vessel in Gibraltar after believing it was trying to provide crude oil to Syria, an ally of Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Britain would face repercussions over the seizure.