British authorities remain in talks with Iran regarding the release of an oil tanker that was captured by Royal Marines in July after British authorities discovered that the ship was bound for Syria, which is a violation of Europe’s sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Tehran denied the accusation and country’s powerful the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps retaliated by capturing the British flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.
The Stena Impero was registered in Panama and had been chartered by a company in the United Arab Emirates.
The British Foreign Office has neither confirmed or denied the prospect of the tanker’s imminent release, but London has said that it is ultimately up to Gibraltarian authorities to release the vessel and is refuting any notion of a perceived “exchange.”
Following a meeting between US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the former hailed Britain’s willingness to participate in the American-led Operation Sentinel, which aims to bolster the West’s military presence in the Persian Gulf as part of a deterrent against further aggressive activities by the naval component of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami, claimed in an interview with Iran’s state-controlled media that the UK was considering releasing the tanker. Eslami’s claim, however, was quickly denied by the British government, who said it was up to the government of Gibraltar to deal with the case.
The current crisis in the Persian Gulf has added to the hostilities between the West and Iran that have been growing since Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal that saw the Islamic Republic agree to curb its nuclear work in return for the lifting of international sanctions that had crippled Iran’s economy but had helped consolidate the power of the most fanatical hardliners in the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Iran’s capture of the Stena Impero drew condemnation from Britain and other European parties to the nuclear deal, all of whom have been trying to salvage the agreement by helping to shield Iran’s economy from the US’ sanctions.