British Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency meeting for this Monday morning in which the top government officials and security leaders discussed the next steps.
The Prime Minister chaired the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA) meeting and it is expected that ministers may consider freezing the assets of a number of Iranian officials.
Iran has continued to provoke the United Kingdom with the release of footage that appears to show the moment the vessel was seized. In the footage, masked agents can be seen being lowered onto the vessel by ropes from a helicopter.
It is believed that the seizure of the Stena Impero is Iran’s retaliation because of the United Kingdom’s involvement in the Grace 1 seizure earlier this month. A number of Royal Marines had boarded the Iranian oil tanker because it was carrying crude oil to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria in breach of sanctions.
Iran had said that the actions by the Royal Marines was “piracy” but the British Foreign Secretary maintains that the operation was carried out in all legality. Port and law enforcement agencies in Gibraltar detained the tanker and its cargo with the help of a number of marines. It is said that the operation was fairly straightforward and was carried out without a hitch.
A former British Cabinet minister said that the United Kingdom’s actions in assisting Gibraltar automatically meant that British vessels in the Gulf are at a higher risk and would potentially need protection. Iain Duncan Smith stated that it was a mistake for the United Kingdom to have refused the United States’ offer of “assets”.
In the COBRA meeting today, the ministers will have been discussing how to increase security and how to respond to the increasing threat posed by Iran. An update about measures to be taken will likely be given towards the end of the day.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken to his counterparts in Germany and France and they have agreed that one of the biggest priorities is the safe passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, a key passageway in transporting oil globally.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom said that the seizure of the British tanker is “illegal interference”.
The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has commented on the situation, saying that it is clear Iran is not making any attempt to behave like a “normal nation”. The United States has offered to renegotiate with Iran, but only if it abandons all of the malign activities that it is involved in.