WASHINGTON/DUBAI, Nov 3 (Reuters) – The Pentagon on Wednesday rejected claims by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that they thwarted an attempt by the United States to detain a tanker carrying the Islamic Republic’s oil in the Sea of Oman.
“I’ve seen the Iranian claims, they are absolutely totally false and untrue … it’s a bogus claim,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“The only seizing that was done was by Iran,” Kirby said.
American officials said that in reality Iranian forces had seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker last month, and U.S. naval forces were just monitoring the situation.
“With the timely and authoritative action of the Guards naval forces, the U.S. terrorist Navy’s operation to steal Iranian oil in the Sea of Oman failed,” Iran’s elite Guards said in a statement published by Iranian state media earlier on Wednesday.
“The tanker carrying Iran’s oil docked at the port of Bandar Abbas on October 25.”
While Iranian media identified the seized tanker as “SOTHYS” — the name tanker tracking websites give for a Vietnam-flagged vessel — state TV aired footage showing a red tanker surrounded by about 10 speedboats. It also included a recording of what TV said was the encounter between Iranian and U.S. forces.
Iran has repeatedly warned the United States about its military activities in the Persian Gulf, saying that the Guards’ naval forces have increased patrols to also secure the passage of Iranian ships and combat fuel smuggling.
Giving details of the reported incident, Press TV said the Guards had reacted “promptly” when the Iranian oil tanker was detained in the Sea of Oman.
“Members of the Guards naval forces carried out a heliborne operation on the detained tanker’s deck, gained control of the vessel, and directed it back toward Iran’s territorial waters,” Press TV reported.
Separately, American officials told Reuters that several drones, believed to be Iranian, had come close to the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship Essex in the Strait of Hormuz in the past 24 hours.
Tensions have risen between Tehran and Washington amid stalled talks on reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, under which Tehran curtailed its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for a lifting of global sanctions.
Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani said on Wednesday the talks would fail unless U.S. President Joe Biden could guarantee Washington would not renege on the nuclear agreement in the future.
The deal has eroded since 2018 when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it and reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to breach various limits on uranium enrichment set by the pact.
Shamkhani tweeted: “The U.S. president, lacking authority, is not ready to give guarantees. If the current status quo continues, the result of negotiations is clear.”
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli, Dubai newsroom and Idrees Ali in Washington Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis)