The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.
The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.
British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.
The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”
“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.
The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.
The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”
The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker
The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.
On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.
Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.
In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.
The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.
“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.
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