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Iran now using warships to escort their commercial ships

IRIN naval ships in Velayat-90 Naval Exercise. (Mohammad Sadegh Heydari/Wikimedia Commons)
August 26, 2019

Iran just deployed its most advanced warship — a missile-equipped naval destroyer — to the Gulf of Aden on Monday to protect its ships.

The destroyer Sahand, equipped with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and air defense systems, deployed to the Gulf of Aden alongside of the logistical support ship Kharg, which carries helicopters, the Associated Press reported.

When the Sahand was commissioned in 2018, Iran referred to it as its most advanced warship, Radio Farda reported.

The warships will be protecting Iran’s commercial vessels in the Gulf as they travel through the Sea of Oman.

The move comes after an Iranian tanker, Grace 1, was detained near the British territory of Gibraltar on July 4 after it was suspected to be shipping oil to Syria – a violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran said the oil was not on its way to Syria, but could not prove to British authorities that the oil wouldn’t end up there – a condition that would’ve enabled the tanker’s release.

The U.S. filed a petition in Gibraltar’s Supreme Court in an attempt to seize the tanker, but the petition was not granted. Instead, the ship was released and ordered not to go to Syria.

An Iranian official said the ship’s 2.1 million barrels of oil, valued at approximately $130 million, has been sold to an “unnamed buyer,” the Associated Press noted.

The ship had reflagged itself as the Adrian Darya and was headed to Turkey, but has changed its destination. Now the ship is heading east in the Mediterranean Sea.

Late last month, Iran lashed out when their Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seized British oil tanker Stena Impero near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran cited “security concerns” for seizing the tank and ordered the ship to reverse course and travel to an Iranian port for inspection.

Video showed IRGC speedboats surrounding the Stena Impero and paratroopers rappelling from a helicopter onto the tanker’s deck while shouting commands at the tanker’s crew.

Iran later released video showing some of the Stena Impero’s 23 crew members who were also detained along with the ship.

Iran has also made repeated threats to block the passage of oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, where most of the world’s oil passes, if they are not able to continue selling their oil.

The U.S. has been working toward forming a coalition to protect commercial ships traveling through international shipping routes, including the Strait of Hormuz where most of the world’s oil travels through.