The threat level for UK ships in Iranian waters was raised to its highest level this week — with officials claiming that the risk of an attack is “critical.”
The move was announced Tuesday by the British Ministry of Defense, the BBC reports.
It came just one day before a reported incident in the Strait of Hormuz, which saw a group of boats belonging to Irans Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) allegedly attempt to stop a UK oil tanker before being scared away by a Royal Navy ship.
“The crew of HMS Montrose yesterday ensured the safe passage of the merchant vessel British Heritage through the Strait of Hormuz,” said Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt in a statement Thursday. “I would like to thank the Royal Navy for their professionalism, which upheld international law and supported freedom of navigation through a shipping channel that is vital to global trade.”
Mordaunt called out Iran for the incident, saying: “The UK government is concerned by this action and we urge Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation.”
The raise in threat level ultimately means that British tankers are now advised to stay out of Iranian Waters, according to the BBC.
Wednesdays incident in the Strait of Hormuz unfolded nearly a week after the British Royal Marines boarded and seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar — under the belief that it was violating European Union sanctions by shipping oil to Syria.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a stern warning to the UK on Wednesday, saying the country would face “consequences” for seizing its vessel.
IRGC officials have denied any involvement with the latest confrontation.
The back-and-forth comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran — with President Trump even going so far as to order a military strike against the Middle Eastern nation last month, which he called off, after it downed an unmanned US surveillance drone.
“They shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters,” Trump tweeted afterwards. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights (sic) when I asked, how many will die…150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”