JEDDAH: The UN was urged on Wednesday to take action against Tehran after two Iranian attacks on shipping in the Gulf in less than a week.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UN Security Council “must respond to Iran’s destabilizing actions and lack of respect for international law.”
Raab spoke after Iranian hijackers who seized the Panama-flagged tanker Asphalt Princess off the UAE coast on Tuesday fled the vessel, and it resumed its course toward the port of Sohar in northern Oman.
In a dramatic audio recording of the incident, one of the tanker’s crew tells the UAE coast guard that five or six armed Iranians have boarded the vessel.
“Iranian people are onboard with ammunition,” the crewman member says. “We are … now drifting. We cannot tell you exactly our ETA to Sohar.”
When the Emirati coast guard asks the crewman what the Iranian gunmen are doing onboard, he says he “cannot understand them,” his voice muffled, before trying to hand over the radio to someone else. The call then cuts off.
Satellite tracking data for the Asphalt Princess then showed it gradually heading toward Iranian waters off the port of Jask early on Wednesday. Hours later, it stopped and changed course toward Oman, just before British Navy monitors said the hijackers had left and the vessel was now “safe.”
The maritime intelligence company Dryad Global said the seizure of the Asphalt Princess was the latest Iranian response to outside pressures, economic conflicts and other perceived grievances.
“Iran has consistently shown that in conducting this kind of operation, it is calculated in doing so, both by targeting vessels directly connected with ongoing disputes, and vessels operating within the ‘grey space’ of legitimacy,” which may be involved in illicit trade, it said.
The hijacking followed an attack last Thursday by Iranian explosives-laden drones on the MT Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker operated by an Israeli company based in the UK. The ship’s Romanian captain and a British security guard were killed in the attack, prompting international outrage.
Iran has staged a series of attacks on shipping in the region over the past two years, including limpet mine attacks that damaged tankers.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the summer of 2019, and in January this year they stormed a South Korean tanker and forced it to change course and head for Iran.