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10 Jul, 2023 23:55

US Navy aided fuel smugglers – Iran

Tehran has accused the 5th Fleet of “risky and unprofessional” conduct
US Navy aided fuel smugglers – Iran

An Iranian admiral said on Monday that multiple US aircraft had attempted to prevent the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy from boarding an oil tanker suspected of smuggling.

“On July 6, IRGC Navy personnel were inspecting a ship named NADA 2 that was involved in smuggling Iranian oil and gas in the Persian Gulf, which the Americans sought to prevent through a series of risky and unprofessional actions,” Rear Admiral  Ramazan Zirrahi told Tasnim news agency.

Zirrahi commands the second naval district of the IRGC, headquartered in Bushehr. He told Tasnim that his men intercepted radio traffic between the ship’s captain and the “American command and control center in the region.” The 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain. 

The Americans allegedly told the captain to turn off the ship’s engines and wait to be rescued. Zirrahi claimed that the 5th Fleet then sent two A-10 ground attack planes, a P-8A Poseidon spy plane, two Black Hawk helicopters, a MQ-9 drone and “patrol vessels” to the site, but ultimately failed to prevent the seizure of the ship. 

On Friday, Fars news agency reported that an Emirati-flagged tanker was brought into the port of Bushehr with 12 crew members from four different countries. Iranian authorities said they confiscated over a million liters of smuggled fuel.

The US Navy said at the time that it had “monitored” the interception of a ship in international waters but “decided not to make any further response,” according to Commander Tim Hawkins, 5th Fleet spokesman.

Hawkins had given a detailed statement about two incidents on July 5, when the 5th Fleet deployed a MQ-9 drone, a P-8 Poseidon plane, and the guided missile destroyer USS McFaul in the Gulf of Oman, in response to IRGC attempts to seize two oil tankers. In the span of about three hours, the IRGC vessels approached the Marshall Islands-flagged TRF Moss and the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager, but retreated when the US destroyer came close, the US Navy said.

The US insists that Iran is “a clear threat to regional maritime security and the global economy,” and has accused Tehran of having “harassed, attacked or seized nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels” since 2021.