The US military announced on Wednesday June 5, that it had effectively intercepted and prevented two attempts by the Iranian navy to seize commercial tankers in the waters of Oman. These incidents involved a notable occurrence in which the Iranian navy resorted to firing upon one of the tankers.

The US military said Wednesday it had blocked two attempts by the Iranian navy to seize commercial tankers in international waters off Oman, including one case in which the Iranians fired on the tanker.

Tehran has stepped up actions against tankers in the region since the United States tightened sanctions on Iran’s own oil exports and other sections of its economy.

The Iranians sought to seize the Marshall Islands-flagged TRF Moss and hours later the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager, in both cases fleeing after a US destroyer appeared on the scene, the US Central Command said in a statement.

It said that at 1:00 am Wednesday local time, one Iranian naval vessel approached the TRF Moss in the Gulf of Oman.

Around three hours later, the US Navy received a distress call from the Richmond Voyager, which was positioned more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the coast of Muscat, it said.

Another Iranian naval vessel was close to the tanker and messaged it to stop.

The tightened US sanctions, which aim to cut into Iran’s export earnings, have led to the United States seizing Iranian-controlled tankers and shipments of crude to other countries.

But seizures come as the United States has sought to engage Tehran on some of the issues dividing them, the largest of which is restoring the 2015 agreement in which Iran accepted limitations on its nuclear program.

Most recently Oman initiated indirect talks between the two sides that were believed to focus largely on the release of Americans held by Iran.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP