Iran reportedly seized a Liberian-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and then let it go, the AP has reported, quoting a U.S. military official.

According to the official, who remained unnamed as the information they shared was not yet public, the Iranian special forces boarded the vessel from a helicopter and held it for five hours before releasing it. The U.S. Central Command has released a black-and-white video purporting to show the seizure. According to the AP source, the vessel, MV Wila, made no distress calls either before, during, or after the seizure.

The Iranian Strait of Hormuz last year became a focal point of attention for oil industry observers and stakeholders after Iran first threatened to close it amid the growing tensions between it and the United States, and then tried to seize a British-flagged tanker in response to a seizure of an Iranian vessel by the Gibraltar authorities with help from the Royal Navy.

This was not the first time Tehran had used the closure threat: the Strait of Hormuz is the biggest oil chokepoint in the world, seeing some 17 million barrels of oil pass through it every day. Every time tension flares up between Iran and the West, it plays the chokepoint closure card, but it has yet to follow through with this threat.

The U.S. official who talked to AP suggested no reason for the seizure of the MV Wila by the Iranian Navy, and the Iranian authorities have not acknowledged the event.

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The latest flare-up between Tehran and Washington came as Washington tried to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran indefinitely. The U.S. circulated a new resolution that would ban Iran from buying conventional weapons indefinitely. However, China and Russia—fellow members of the UN’s Security Council—have previously declared their opposition to such a move.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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