Iran's Defense Minister has issued a measured response to the seizure and offloading of Iranian oil by the United States earlier this year.
Characterizing the action as a “blatant act of theft”, Mohammadreza Ashtiani stressed that “such conduct is unequivocally unacceptable on the global stage.”
However, in a reserved response, he said, “While Iran reserves the option to respond and potentially take broader measures in the future ... the focus remains on diplomatic avenues", perhaps signaling the recent hostage exchange negotiations with the US which have seen $6bn of frozen Iranian funds freed up from South Korea in exchange for imprisoned US-Iranian citizens.
He did, however, assert the expectation that the US exercise restraint to avoid further complicating the situation.
On September 8, the US officially confirmed the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker back in April. The tanker, named Suez Rajan and managed by a Greek company, was carrying approximately 980,000 barrels of crude oil, allegedly intended for sale by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to China, thereby contravening US and international sanctions. The US government had obtained a warrant for the seizure of the vessel earlier this year.
Following the seizure, Suez Rajan Ltd., the vessel's owner, pleaded guilty to sanctions violations, resulting in a $2.5 million fine.
Later, Iran seized two tankers in the Gulf region, leading to an escalation of tensions. The US accused Iran of interfering with navigational rights and harassment in both regional and international waters.
The US is currently in the process of formally taking ownership of the seized cargo, which holds an estimated value in the tens of millions of dollars and is slated for future sale.