British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that might escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.
The Grace 1 tanker was impounded within the British territory on the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after cruising around Africa from the Gulf. Transport information reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, though its paperwork says the oil is from neighboring Iraq.
The Gibraltar authorities who seized it did so below the authority of European sanctions in opposition to Syria that have been in place for years, with no reference to the supply of the oil.
However, the chance that the cargo was Iranian attracts a link between this incident and a brand new U.S. effort to halt all global sales of Iranian crude, in what Tehran has described as an unlawful “economic war” towards it.
European countries have tried to keep neutral in that confrontation, which noticed America name off airstrikes against Iran only minutes earlier than impact last month, and Tehran amasses stocks of enriched uranium banned under a nuclear deal.