What Happened: Iranian state television aired a claim by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that it seized a foreign oil tanker accused of smuggling 1 million liters (about 264,000 gallons) of fuel out of Iran, the Associated Press reported July 18. The IRGC has not specified the nationalities of the crew or the flag of the vessel, although it said the incident occurred July 14 just offshore from Qeshm Island.
Why It Matters: Iran has not specified the name of the vessel or the flag it was sailing under. The Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah disappeared late on July 13 in the same waters. Tehran appears to be walking a careful line of retaliating against the recent seizure of an Iranian vessel by British forces while maintaining that its actions are justified. Iran's actions could also be motivated by its desire to interdict illicit smuggling activities.
Background: Iran's Foreign Ministry said July 16 that the country had assisted the crew of a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf without specifying the name of the vessel. The U.S. State Department has demanded that Iran immediately release the ship.