Iranian authorities seized a vessel carrying 106,500 liters of smuggled petroleum off the coast of Qeshm Island, located off of Iran's southern coast, and arrested nine crew members on Monday morning, Iranian state media Tasnim News reported.
Nine members of the vessel's crew have been detained for investigation, the report added, citing the judiciary chief for Hormozgan province, Mojtaba Ghahremani.
They were likely intending to smuggle the fuel to one of the other countries along the Persian Gulf; however, they were caught in a joint operation between Iranian Military Intelligence and Border Guard patrols.
Is this a pattern?
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the fall of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighboring states and by sea to Gulf Arab countries.
It has frequently seized boats it says are being used for smuggling oil in the Gulf.
On Saturday, the IRGC seized two oil tankers in a raid in the Persian Gulf in an apparent retaliatory move, foreign news sites noted. It did not specify what codes the tankers violated to warrant seizure.
Nour News, an Iranian news site closely affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned earlier on Friday of an Iranian response — "punitive steps" — to Greece assisting the US in seizing oil from Iranian-flagged tanker Lana.
The tanker was stopped a month ago, on April 15, off the coast of Karystos, carrying a Russian flag. It was seized at the time by the Greek coast guard for suspected violation of EU sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, the oil on it was transferred to another vessel on the island of Evia by Greek maritime authorities at the request of the US.
According to AP: "Greek media said the Lana tanker was believed to be carrying more than 100,000 tons of Iranian crude, in breach of [the] United States and European Union sanctions on Iran."
A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force involved in planning attacks on Jews and Israelis worldwide, Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodayari, was assassinated last week.
A New York Times report published four days after the assassination claimed that Israel informed the US that it was indeed responsible for the assassination. The Israeli defense establishment has expressed surprise at the report.
Iranian tension with the West
Tensions between Iran and Western powers have been at a high lately due to the prolonged finalization of the nuclear deal. Talks are at a stalemate.
Iran is currently trying to complete the production and installation of 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges, including at a new underground facility being built near Natanz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed two weeks ago.
According to the defense minister, Tehran is a few weeks away from accumulating enough fissile material sufficient for one nuclear bomb.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.