US officials are charging Iran with seizing a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker on Oct.24, identified in The Associated Press as the MV Southys.
Iran and the US are giving two vastly different accounts of a recent tanker seizure incident in the Sea of Oman. Claims in Iranian state media drove world headlines on Wednesday after the Islamic Republic’s military released video it said proved the US Navy tried to steal Iranian oil when it made moves on a tanker outside the Persian Gulf not far from Iran’s coast.
The disputed incident occurred last week, with contradictory accounts of what happened including accusations and counter-accusations emerging and intensifying this week. A Pentagon spokesperson has blasted the Iranian version as “totally false and untrue,” asserting that “the only seizing that was done was by Iran.”
US officials are charging Iran with seizing a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker on Oct.24, identified in The Associated Press as the MV Southys. It’s since been reported in Bloomberg and others that the Iranian and Vietnam governments are in talks over freeing the tanker and its crew.
This follows a similar scenario last year into earlier this year which resulted in the IRGC releasing a South Korean tanker, after Seoul agreed to unfreeze over $9 billion in Iran’s assets.
The AP details Washington’s version of events from days ago as follows:
Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard troops on Oct. 24 took control of the MV Southys, a vessel that analysts suspect of trying to transfer sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Asia, at gunpoint. U.S. forces had monitored the seizure, but ultimately didn’t take action as the vessel sailed into Iranian waters.
Iran celebrated its capture of the vessel in dramatic footage aired on state television, the day before the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Interestingly, Iran presented the video in question as “proof” that it was actually a US Navy warship trying to seize Iranian oil.
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) November 3, 2021
Regardless of the conflicting narratives and accusations, it remains that the footage shows US and Iranian naval forces coming into extremely close proximity, suggesting a shooting war in the Persian Gulf could have erupted.
Western pundits have since expressed shock at just how close the US Navy allowed armed Iranian patrol boats and helicopters to come into their proximity…
Iranian navy boats seized a tanker in the gulf of Oman last month, a US navy destroyer watched it unfold and took no action, Iranian boats even surrounded and pointed their guns at the US destroyer. #Iran #US pic.twitter.com/OP72NuCYJR
— CNW (@ConflictsW) November 3, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has since called Iran’s claims “bogus”. The AP writes, “Asked about Iran’s assertion of U.S. aggression, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said it was false and that it was Iran that had seized what he described as a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Oman on Oct. 24.”
Meanwhile stalled nuclear talks in Vienna still hang in the balance, with Iran announcing this week that it will rejoin the negotiating table on November 29. But as these recent ‘tanker war’ incidents near Iran’s coast show, anything could happen before then, possibly permanently derailing the talks.