Iran seizes third foreign ship in less than month

Posted August 07, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran favours talks with the US if it lifts sanctions against the Islamic republic, despite his top diplomat turning down a meeting with US President Donald Trump. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

Zarif also criticised USA sanctions imposed on him on Wednesday, saying Washington had slammed the door to any diplomacy to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has seized a foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf, state media said Sunday, in what would be the third such seizure in a month amid heightened tensions with its foe the United States.

Last month, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a British tanker, Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations.

Rouhani said "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace" and "war with Iran is the mother of all wars" as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Zarif's press conference came a day after Iran announced its forces had seized a foreign ship in the Persian Gulf suspected of carrying smuggled fuel, but provided no details on the vessel or the nationality of the crew.

"At the moment, the US is alone on the earth and can't create a coalition".

In response to such incidents, the United States has been seeking to form a coalition - dubbed Operation Sentinel - to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Last year Washington exited the agreement, which lifted nuclear-related sanctions as long as Iran's nuclear activities remained peaceful in nature.

"I used to be informed in NY I might be sanctioned in two weeks except I accepted that officer, which happily I didn't", stated the Iranian minister.

"This is an worldwide challenge and we look forward to the opportunity to work together with the Royal Navy and with additional partners and allies who share the common goal of ensuring the free flow of commerce", Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Iran is responsible for security in the Persian Gulf and is acting more vigorously to protect it, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, suggesting that a showdown between his country and Western powers over crucial shipping lanes could escalate.

Iran retaliated by grabbing a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz two weeks later and continues to hold it. Iran has denied any involvement in those attacks.

Zarif himself told a press conference on Monday that while he was in NY recently, the Americans told him that unless he agreed to go to the White House to meet President Donald Trump, or would be sanctioned in two weeks.

Trump in June called off a military strike after the United States said Iran shot down one of its unmanned surveillance drones.

Asked about reports he had been invited to meet Trump, Zarif said he had turned it down despite the threat of sanctions against him.

The UK government still says it hopes the taskforce can transition to a European-led mission - though so far no other European countries have said they're willing to commit warships to protect merchant shipping as part of an global maritime force. In an apparent bid to calm tensions in the Gulf, Shiite-dominated Iran has called for improving relations with its regional Sunni rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.