Britain sends second warship to Gulf after Iran tanker standoff
LONDON- Agence France-Presse
Britain said on July 12 it was sending a second warship to the Gulf and raising the alert level in the oil-rich region as tensions spike after Iranian gunboats threatened a UK supertanker.
The decision was disclosed as U.S. President Donald Trump stepped up his war of words with the Islamic republic, which breached part of a nuclear accord already rejected by Washington.
"Iran better be careful," Trump told reporters outside the White House.
"They’re treading on very dangerous territory. Iran, if you’re listening, you better be careful."
British officials said the naval deployment was part of a pre-planned rotation and meant to ensure a continued British naval presence in one of the most important but volatile oil shipment routes in the world.
But a source said the switchover was brought forward by several days and should see two of Britain’s most advanced warships jointly navigating the waters off Iran for a period that might last a number of weeks.
A government spokesman said the HMS Duncan was "deploying to the region to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew changeover".
On July 9, HMS Montrose warned off three fast Iranian gunboats that UK officials said were trying to "impede" the progress of a British supertanker through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.
Iranian officials have denied the incident ever happened.
The British government decided at the start of the week to raise the alert level for ships travelling through Iranian waters to three on a three-point scale, indicating a "critical" threat.
HMS Duncan is an air defence destroyer that carries a set of heavy Harpoon anti-ship missiles and has a company and crew in excess of 280.
After weeks of escalating tensions, Trump last month authorised an air strike on Iran over its downing of a U.S. spy drone but backed away at the last minute.
Alarmed that Trump’s hawkish stance could lead to war, the Democratic-led House of Representatives on Friday voted to bar funding for military operations against Iran unless they are in self-defence or explicitly authorised by Congress.