The Iranian tanker seized by the United Kingdom off of the coast of Gibraltar has been released despite US objections.
The UK had originally seized the Iranian tanker, called Grace 1, after claiming that the ship was headed to Syria, a country under EU sanctions. In response, Iran seized a UK tanker in the Persian Gulf for “shipping violations” while traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. After the UK released the Iranian tanker, the United States issued a warrant for the tanker. According to Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo, the tanker is now headed for Greece, though Iran stated that the "cargo on board will not be made available to any EU-sanctioned entity."
Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, was one of the first Iranian officials to react after the release of Grace 1, which was renamed Adrian Darya after its release. Bagheri compared the freeing of the Iranian tanker to Iran’s downing of a US drone that Iran had claimed violated Iranian territory and the Iranian seizure of the British tanker. He claimed that these events “show that the Islamic Republic is moving toward its goals with strength.”
The head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, who has been weighing in on national and international issues more and more recently, said that the release of the Iranian tanker was not enough. “The amount [of time] that it was seized will not be compensated just by it being freed,” Raisi said. “Damages must be paid so that it becomes a lesson for all those who act contrary to international regulations.”
Iran argued that the UK’s reason for confiscation was not valid. While Syria is an EU-sanctioned country, Iran is not a member of the EU and therefore its sanctions do not apply to them. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at one point claimed that the tanker was never headed to Syria. Yet he would not confirm where it was headed.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi denied Aug. 19 that the UK tanker seizure was related to the Iranian tanker seizure. “From the beginning we stated that this tanker was not related to Adrian Darya,” he said. Upon the release of the Iranian tanker, Mousavi said, “We are happy that our position on the unlawful and illegal seizure was proven.” He continued, “We have to wait for the court ruling to be issued on the UK tanker. This ship had two, three shipping violations which are being investigated.”
For Iranian officials, the release of the tanker is viewed as a victory. An article in conservative Jahan news, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), wrote that the UK was talked into seizing the Iranian tanker by the United States since Iran had shown softness in violations to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the United States exited in 2018 and Iran is still complying with. The article stated that the seizure of the UK tanker by the IRGC forced the UK to retreat from conflict in the Persian Gulf with Iran despite US pressure to continue.