London: Britain said on Friday that it was sending a second warship to the Gulf and raising the alarm level in the region, as tensions after the Iranian gunboats threatened a British supertanker.
The decision was revealed when US President Donald Trump stepped up his fight with the Islamic Republic about his nuclear program and alleged support for terrorist groups in the Middle East.
"Iran, be careful," Trump told journalists outside the White House. "They are entering a very dangerous area. Iran, if you listen, you better be careful."
British officials said the deployment of the navy was part of a pre-planned rotation and was intended to ensure a continuous British navy presence in one of the most important but volatile oil transportation routes in the world.
But according to one source, the changeover is several days early and two of Britain's most advanced warships should collectively follow the waters around Iran for a period of several weeks.
A government spokesman said the HMS Duncan is "committed to the region to ensure that we maintain a continued maritime security presence while HMS Montrose is relieved of pre-scheduled maintenance and crew conversion."
Sky News television reported that HMS Duncan would not be part of the international military escort team for ships in the Gulf proposed by the United States on Thursday.
HMS Duncan is an air defense destroyer that carries a set of heavy Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a crew of more than 280.
The BBC reported that it had reached Bosporus Strait in Turkey from the Black Sea via the Suez Canal to the Gulf.
HMS Montrose had to warn three fast Iranian gunboats on Wednesday that British officials were trying to "block" the progress of a British supertanker through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. Iranian officials have denied that the incident ever happened.
The episode in the Strait of Hormuz took place a week after the British Royal Marines helped the authorities of Gibraltar detain an Iranian tanker that US officials believe it wanted to deliver oil to Syria in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.
Iran has provoked the arrest and issued a series of ominous warnings to both the United States and Great Britain about its right to take unspecified actions as retaliation.
"If the enemy had made the smallest assessment, they would not have done this," said Ali Fadavi, the revolutionary commander of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran, on Thursday.
According to one source, the British government decided at the beginning of the week to raise the warning level for ships traveling through Iranian waters to three on a three-point scale.
The decision means that Great Britain regards the security threat in Iranian waters for commercial ships as "critical".
But the British Foreign Minister, Jeremy Hunt, called on Friday for & # 39; cool heads & # 39; to prevail as threats increase and Iran's response to its growing isolation – and economic suffering from US sanctions – becomes increasingly unpredictable.
"We want to do everything we can to ensure that we don't have an unintended escalation that can be very dangerous for the world," said Hunt.
The authorities of Gibraltar – a British overseas territory at the southern tip of Spain – said Friday that the Iranian supertanker transported 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil.
They also stated that they had asked British Naval Marines to assist with the arrest of the Iranian tanker without outside political pressure.
"These important decisions about violations of our laws were certainly not decisions made at the political request or instruction of another state or third party," said Prime Minister Fabian Picardo of Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar police announced Thursday the arrest of the Indian captain and officer of the Iranian tanker.
On Friday, they detained two more Indian crew members as part of an "investigation into the likely export of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria".
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