Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said Friday that its naval forces in the Persian Gulf seized two oil tankers from Greece.
The ships were seized in retaliation for Greece, which in April seized an oil tanker carrying Iranian oil near the coast, and the seizure was carried out at the request of the United States, according to reports in two semi-official Iranian news agencies, Tasnim and Fars News, who are affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.
The shipment of Iranian oil was subsequently handed over to the United States because it violated US sanctions that prohibit Iran from selling its oil, according to news agencies, a claim that could not be independently verified.
The Greek foreign ministry said in a statement that Iran’s action “is tantamount to piracy” and would negatively affect Iran-Greece relations and Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member. It advised its citizens not to travel to Iran.
An Iranian naval helicopter landed on a ship, the Delta Poseidon, which was sailing in the Persian Gulf and flying the Greek flag, and gunmen “captured the ship’s crew,” including two Greek civilians, according to the Greek foreign ministry.
Another Greek-flagged ship lying close to the coast of Iran was also seized in a similar manner and seven Greek citizens were on board, the ministry said in a statement. Iranian media identified the second ship as the Prudent Warrior and said it had recently anchored in Basra, Iraq, carrying Iraqi oil.
A naval tracking website, MarineTraffic.com, said both ships had loaded their oil cargo into the port of Basra.
Iranian media said the two ships had an estimated combined capacity to carry 1.8 million barrels of oil and their cargo is now in Iran’s possession.
The Tasnim news agency warned that the 17 other Greek-flagged tankers currently floating in the Persian Gulf will be seized by Iran if its oil and tanker seized by Greece last month are not returned.
Iran has a history of seizing oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz in response to stopping or seizing ships carrying its oil. But Friday’s incident marked the first time in months that a foreign-flagged ship had been attacked by Iran.