Alistair Bunkall — Sky News July 12, 2019
The UK is to increase its military presence in the Gulf by sending a second warship to the region.
Tensions are mounting in the Gulf after a Royal Navy warship deterred Iranian patrol boats attempting to impede a British tanker sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran has also demanded the immediate release of its oil tanker captured off the coast of Gibraltar, warning the UK: “This is a dangerous game and has consequences.”
The Grace 1 tanker was seized last week after it was suspected of taking crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer, will sail to the Gulf in the coming days after recently completing NATO exercises in the Black Sea.
Duncan will operate alongside the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, and US allies in the Gulf, but she will not be part of an international maritime coalition proposed by Washington.
The Ministry of Defence would not comment on the deployment, but it is understood that Duncan was always due to travel to the region to give some relief to HMS Montrose.
However, her deployment has been brought forward as a result of the deepening crisis with Iran.
In addition to HMS Montrose, the UK also has four mine hunters permanently stationed in the region, and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said discussions were ongoing between UK and US about increasing their military presence in the Gulf.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was “time for cool heads”, adding: “We want to do everything we can to make sure that we don’t have an unintended escalation which could be very dangerous for the world.”
However a senior Iranian cleric, Kazem Sedighi, warned Britain will soon be “slapped in the face” for “daring” to capture the Iranian supertanker Grace 1.
Police in Gibraltar arrested two officers from the Grace 1 on Friday, having previously detained the captain of the vessel’s captain and chief officer.
The four men, who are Indian nationals, have been arrested over alleged breaches of EU economic sanctions against Syria, but none have been charged as yet.