The United Kingdom announced Tuesday that it will send a third warship to the Persian Gulf. The announcement comes at a time when tensions between the U.K. and Iran over the illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker earlier this month are increasing.
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said that HMS Kent, a type 23 frigate, would be sent out into the region in September in order to ensure the country’s maritime security presence in the zone.
The ministry also added that the deployment was planned for a long time and that it has nothing to do with an increase in military presence in the region.
“These long-planned movements do not reflect an escalation in the U.K.’s posture in the region and are routine,” the MoD said.
Yet the announcement comes amid increasing tensions in the region after Britain illegally seized the Iranian oil tanker “Grace 1” near the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, arguing it was taking oil to Syria, which is under an international blockade.
Several reports have however said that the seizing had been requested by the United States, which is openly seeking to drive Iranian exports of oil to zero as part of its sanctions against the Persian nation.
Iran denied the U.K.’s claims that the vessel was destined for a Syrian port and denounced the illegal seizure as “maritime piracy,” calling Britain to immediately release the oil tanker.
“Wicked Britain commits an act of maritime piracy and steals our ship,” said the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei, “they [the British] perpetrate a crime and make it look legal.”
The Islamic Republic is one of Syria’s closest allies and its largest supplier of oil. However, since the U.S. and E.U. imposed sanctions against Syria, the nation has been unable to make their regular deliveries.
Furthermore, Iran’s oil tankers have been under close watch by the U.S. and Western European powers, which is why the Grace 1 was quickly seized once it attempted to sail past Gibraltar from its nearby Strait.
“The Islamic Republic and faithful elements of the establishment will not leave this wickedness unanswered and will respond to it at an appropriate time and place,” Khamenei added.