Iran seizes oil tanker heading for US
Iran’s navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday heading to the U.S. amid wider tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, the latest-such capture in a waterway crucial for global energy supplies.
The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet identified the vessel as the Advantage Sweet. Satellite tracking data for the vessel from MarineTraffic.com showed it in the Gulf of Oman, just north of Oman’s capital, Muscat, on Thursday afternoon. It had just come from Kuwait and listed its destination as Houston, The Associated Press reported.
The Advantage Sweet issued a distress call at 1:15 p.m. while in international waters as Iran seized the vessel, the Navy said.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “Iran should immediately release the oil tanker.”
The Navy initially said Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized the vessel, but an American naval aircraft later confirmed that Iran’s navy captured the ship, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins told The Associated Press.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the seizure came after an “unknown ship collided with an Iranian vessel last night in the Persian Gulf, causing several Iranian crew members to go missing and get injured.” It did not identify the other ship involved in the alleged collision.
The Advantage Sweet had been in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, but its track showed no unusual behavior as it transited through the Strait of Hormuz, where a fifth of all traded oil passes. Iran has made allegations in other seizures that later fell apart as it became clear Tehran was trying to leverage the capture as a chip to negotiate with foreign nations.
Iran’s “harassing activity within the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is commensurate with an established pattern of behavior that has seen Iran target vessels as a result of ongoing disputes,” maritime security firm Dryad Global said.
The 5th Fleet said the Iranian seizure was at least the fifth commercial vessel taken by Tehran in the last two years.
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy,” it added.
U.S. Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, said in a statement that the “illegal seizure” of the tanker was “another in a continuing series of violations by Iran of the international rules-based order.”
The vessel’s manager, a Turkish firm called Advantage Tankers, issued a statement acknowledging the Advantage Sweet was “being escorted by the Iranian navy to a port on the basis of an international dispute.” All the ship’s 24 crew members are Indian.
“The safety and welfare of our valued crew members is our No. 1 priority,” the firm said. “Similar experiences show that crew members of vessels taken under such circumstances are in no danger.”
The ship’s listed owner appeared to be a Chinese company.
Manifest information from data firm Refinitiv showed the Advantage Sweet carried Kuwaiti crude oil for American energy firm Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California. Chevron said it was “aware of the situation.”
“We are in contact with the vessel operator with the hope of resolving this situation as soon as possible,” Chevron spokesperson Christine Dobbyn said in a statement.
IEA, Iranian officials hold talks after border clash
Following the border clash in Nimroz province on Saturday, officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Iran have held talks in a bid to reduce tensions.
Two Iranian border guards and one IEA guard were killed after the shooting that happened near a border post in Nimroz.
Tehran and Kabul have said that peace has returned to the area and both sides have pledged to avoid such incidents.
IEA has emphasized that Afghanistan does not want war with any of its neighbors and wants to have friendly relations with Iran.
“The Islamic Emirate believes in talks regarding any issue that happens. So this is a very good option. We want that all the issues that exist or the concerns that we have are addressed through talks,” said Bilal Karimi, IEA’s deputy spokesman.
Iran’s interior minister also downplayed the clash and said that the border gate of the Silk Bridge has been reopened and economic exchanges between the two countries have resumed.
“There was a brief conflict and it was resolved. Negotiations were also held with the Taliban (IEA). Now we have no problem. The border is open and peaceful,” Ahmad Wahidi, Iran’s Minister of Interior, said.
Iran’s military officials also said that such incidents should be prevented.
“The meeting took place. Now we have come to see what the parties should do so that this kind of unfortunate incident does not happen,” Qassem Rezaei, deputy commander of Iran’s national police, said.
The clash happened amid tensions between the two countries over water rights.
Iran has accused the IEA of violating a 1973 treaty by restricting the flow of water from the Helmand river to Iran, an accusation denied by the IEA.
Earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the IEA over disregarding Iran’s water rights under the treaty. The IEA rejected Raisi’s perceived threat.
An Iranian cleric criticized Raisi’s remarks.
“Your diplomatic language was not correct. You suggested (to IEA) to take your words seriously and not complain later. Is this a proper statement? What answer did you get? You embarrassed this nation,” Abdulrahman Omarzahi, a religious scholar in Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran, said.
Afghanistan weather bureau issues heavy rain and flood warning
The Afghanistan Department of Meteorology issued a warning Monday on the possibility of heavy rain and floods in 19 provinces over the next two days.
In a warning on their website, they said heavy rains and floods could be expected on Monday and Tuesday in Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman, Baghlan, Nangarhar, Kabul, Logar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Zabul, Ghazni, Maidan Wardak, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Parwan, Panjshir and Kapisa province.
According to the department, the amount of rainfall is predicted to be between 10 and 30 mm.
Last week, the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) reported that over the past month, at least 42 people died and 45 were injured in 13 provinces due to natural disasters.
Shafiullah Rahimi, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a video that during this period, 341 houses were completely or partially destroyed, 19,573 acres of agricultural land were damaged, and 1,354 livestock were lost in these provinces, mostly in flash floods.
According to Rahimi, these incidents took place in the provinces of Kapisa, Maidan Wardak, Takhar, Badakhshan, Ghor, Kandahar, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Paktia, Khost, Daikundi and Nangarhar.
In addition to this, recent floods caused huge financial losses to residents.
The press office of the governor of Ghor has said that a joint delegation from various government departments visited Taywara and Pasaband districts of the province, to assess the flood damage.
“Five thousand, eight hundred and ninety-five acres of agricultural land, 105 drinking water wells, and water springs were destroyed in two districts, 74 shops were partially destroyed and some were completely destroyed,” the statement said.
In addition, 32 houses were partially destroyed, along with 201 small water dams, fourteen culvert bases and 559 small water reservoirs and canals.
Ghor’s press office said the team had shared the results of its investigations with the local administration, but no help has yet been received for the flood victims.
IEA’s Prime Minister congratulates Erdogan on his victory
Prime Minister of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, has extended his heartfelt congratulations to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his re-election.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won an election runoff Sunday after the strongest challenge to his 20-year rule.
The IEA Prime Minister expressed his sincere hope for increased strength, stability, and dedication to religious service in Turkey under President Erdogan’s leadership.
Akhund also noted the bond of brotherhood and friendship between the people of Afghanistan and Turkey and conveyed his aspirations for continued cooperation and mutual support between the two nations in various fields.
He also said Erdogan’s successful re-election will further strengthen diplomatic ties and shared values between the two countries.
Official results showed Erdogan’s challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu won 47.9% of the votes to Erdogan’s 52.1%, pointing to a deeply divided nation.
The election had been seen as one of the most consequential yet for Turkey, with the opposition believing it had a strong chance of unseating Erdogan and reversing his policies after his popularity was hit by a cost-of-living crisis.
Instead, victory reinforced his image of invincibility, after he had already redrawn domestic, economic, security and foreign policy in the NATO member country of 85 million people.
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