Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the July seizure of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, said a senior Iranian military commander on Thursday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Khamenei gave the order, which was “meticulously executed,” said the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh.
“When he [Khamenei] said that England’s action will not go unanswered, the English ship was seized only 48 hours later. These are orders that the Supreme Leader issued that were meticulously executed,” said Hajizadeh, who was one of the eight IRGC commanders sanctioned by the US on June 24.
“Similar orders have also been issued in relation to other sectors,” he added.
IRGC forces seized the Stena Impero on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz, two weeks after British forces seized the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, formerly known as Grace 1, in Gibraltar, on suspicion of breaking EU sanctions on Syria.
Khamenei had described Britain’s seizure of Grace 1 as “maritime piracy” and warned on July 16 – three days before the IRGC raided the Stena Impero - that “the Islamic Republic and devout agents of the system will respond to these vicious acts.”
Iranian officials have previously claimed that the Stena Impero was seized for violating international maritime law.
“We received reports that the British Stena Impero oil tanker was causing incidents and, therefore, we asked the military to direct it to Bandar Abbas port for the necessary probes,” Allahmorad Afifipour, head of Hormozgan’s maritime authority, told Iran’s semi-official news agency Tasnim on the day of the incident.
On July 22, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran seized the ship to implement international law, not in retaliation to actions by Britain.