UK considers deploying drones to the Gulf amid Iran tensions

 

September 03, 2019

 

Drones will help surveil as British warships are continuing to escort UK-flagged tankers


In this Aug. 17, 2019 file photo, the super tanker Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1 sails in the British territory of Gibraltar. Image Credit: AP

 

By AP, REUTERS

 

London – The United Kingdom is considering deploying British drones to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran, Sky News reported early on Monday.

UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has a number of Reaper drones based in nearby Kuwait and flying over Iraq and Syria.

These could be re-tasked if the decision to deploy drones to the Gulf is taken, Sky News said.

The drones will help with overhead surveillance as British warships are continuing to escort UK-flagged tankers through the Strait of Hormuz, according to the report.

On Friday, the UK called for broad support to tackle Gulf shipping threats after Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the strait in July.

Iran seized the ship following the seizure of an Iranian tanker in Gibralter just days before. Authorities believed it was carrying an illagal oil shipment to Syria which is under an international embargo.

The tanker was later released despite pressure from

US pursuing Iran tanker

On Sunday, the tanker which was being pursued by the U.S. across the Mediterranean Sea slowed to a near-stop Sunday off the coast of Syria, where America’s top diplomat alleges it will be unloaded despite denials from Tehran.

The ongoing saga of the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, comes as tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran is set to send a deputy foreign minister and a team of economists to Paris on Monday for talks over ways to salvage the accord after a call between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Adrian Darya slowed to a near-stop on Sunday some 92 kilometers off Syria.

The ship’s Automatic Identification System does not show its destination after its mariners onboard previously listed it as ports in Greece and Turkey. Turkey’s foreign minister at one point suggested it would go to Lebanon, something denied by a Lebanese official.

US warning

The U.S. has been warning countries not to accept the Adrian Darya, which carries 2.1 million barrels of crude oil worth some $130 million.

The U.S. has sanctioned the Adrian Darya’s captain and has sought to impound the vessel.

Authorities in Gibraltar alleged the ship was bound for a refinery in Baniyas, Syria, when they seized it in early July. They ultimately let it go.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged on Twitter that the ship was still bound for Syria.

“We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter. “I hope it changes course.”

Iranian officials have said the oil onboard the Adrian Darya had been sold to an unnamed buyer. However, anyone buying Iranian crude oil would be subject to U.S. sanctions.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s adviser Bouthaina Shaaban separately told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that Damascus is trying to get oil that its people need “but authorities don’t know where the Iranian tanker is heading.”

Paris meeting

Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi is due to travel to Paris with economists on Monday, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. That came after a call Saturday between Rouhani and Macron, who recently surprised the Group of Seven summit in France by inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif there.

Iran is set to further break the terms of the nuclear deal on Friday if Europe fails to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the global market. The U.S. under President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions on Iran that are battering its economy.

The deal’s “terms are not changeable and all the parties need be committed to its content,” Rouhani said, according to IRNA.

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