The UK has vowed to increase is military presence in the Persian Gulf by sending a second warship to the tense region, Sky news reported on Friday.
The HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, will work alsongside the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose and US Gulf allies, but will not take part in Washington’s proposed global maritime coalition.
The news comes after outgoing UK prime minister Theresa May began talks with US authorities on beefing up a transatlantic presence in the Persian Gulf following alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) refused to comment on decision, Sky News reported, but said it understood that the HMS Duncan would be accompanied by four mine hunting vessels stationed in the region, as well as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship.
Tensions Rise in the Persian Gulf
Tensions between Tehran and London have skyrocketed after the UK Royal Navy had also worked with Gibraltarian authorities last week to seize Iran’s Grace 1 supertanker, which was smuggling 2.1m barrels of crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, according to UK authorities.
Senior Iranian cleric Kazem Sedighi slammed the move as a “dangerous game” that had “consequences” and threatened that London would be “slapped in the face” for its actions. The comments were also made after the HMS Montrose had blocked vessels believed to be Iranian patrol boats attempting to block a BP-owned tanker sailing in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were accused of attempting to “divert” a British Heritage tanker “from international to Iranian waters” on Thursday, the UK Ministry of Defence said.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose then “got between them and issued a verbal warning to withdraw,” an unnamed MoD source said. But whilst Washington stated it had spotted five IRGC vessels, London said it had spotted three.
Whilst Iranian authorities denied approaching the tanker on Thursday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani slammed London’s decision to escort the tanker on early Wednesday, stating that the UK’s previous actions had endangered the safety of navigation in the region, stating that the UK “should instead allow navigation to be safe.”
Jeremy Hunt told Sky News on Friday that the UK was not seeking to increase tensions with Iran, but added that UK authorities were “reacting to what is happening in a measured and careful way” and that London wanted to be clear that it was not “seeking to escalate this situation”.