Saudi Arabia has decided to host US troops in a joint move with Washington to boost regional security, the kingdom's defence ministry said, as tensions soar in the Gulf. "Based on mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and their desire to enhance everything that could preserve the security of the region and its stability... King Salman gave his approval to host American forces," a ministry spokesman was quoted by Saudi state news agency SPA as saying. Saudi Arabia has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they withdrew following the end of the war with Iraq.
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Iran crisis: British oil tanker seized in Strait of Hormuz as UK shipping warned to avoid area in Gulf
Stena Impero seized in Strait of Hormuz on Friday night A second tanker, Mesdar, was stopped before being released Jeremy Hunt says seizures "unacceptable", holding a COBR meeting Government warns UK shipping to avoid area Analysis: Boris Johnson could face early test as Iran 'exploits' political uncertainty US developing 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensions Two British oil tankers were seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday night, in a major escalation of tensions in the Gulf. The British-flagged Stena Impero had been en route to Saudi Arabia, but abruptly changed course and began sailing towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, data relayed by maritime tracking services showed. The 30,000-tonne ship “went dark”, meaning its transponder was turned off, at 4.29pm UK time and nothing has been heard from her or her 23 crew since. A second oil tanker, the British-operated, Liberian-flagged Mesdar, was intercepted by the Guards about 40 minutes after the course shift by Stena Impero, and was held for some time before being allowed to resume navigation. HMS Montrose, the Type-23 frigate, was understood to have been dispatched to help the Stena, but was minutes too late. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, said he was “extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz”. British oil tanker seized in the Gulf Mr Hunt said he was attending a Cobra meeting to determine the UK’s response and what could be done to secure their release, adding that the seizures were “unacceptable”. He said it was understood there were no British citizens among the two crews. "We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation," a Government spokesman said after the meeting. UK vessels have been advised to "stay out of the area" of the Strait of Hormuz for an "interim period", the spokesman said, adding: "As the Foreign Secretary has said, our response will be considered and robust and there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved." US President Donald Trump said Iran was showing its true colours and warned that it was in “big trouble". Northern Marine, a Clyde-based subsidiary of the Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena AB, said a “hostile action” had preceded the vessel’s change of course on Friday afternoon. The company issued a statement saying it had been “approached by unidentified small craft and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters”. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said in a statement that they stopped the Stena Impero at the request of the maritime authority in the Iranian province of Hormozgan on suspicion that it had “violated international maritime law”, but did not elaborate. Iran tensions | Read more The head of Iran’s port authority was quoted by Guards-affiliated Tasnim news agency as saying: “We received reports of the British oil tanker, Stena Impero, causing problems, and therefore asked the military to guide the tanker towards Bandar Abbas harbour.” They said the Mesdar, whose transponder was also turned off, was briefly held and cautioned about “environmental regulations” before it was let go. On Saturday, Iran's Fars news agency claimed the Stena Impero was in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and ignored its distress call. All 23 crew on the tanker were now at Bandar Abbas port and would remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, Fars quoted an official as saying. "It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it," the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, told Fars. "The tanker is now at Iran's Bandar Abbas port and all its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over." Stena Bulk said the ship was "in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations." "There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality," said Erik Hanell, president and chief executive of Stena Bulk. He said there had been no reported injuries. Tracking data showed the Stena Impero was in the same area that a United Arab Emirates-based vessel was detained on Sunday and where a British vessel, the British Heritage, was blocked by Iranian forces earlier this month. The move appeared to be in retaliation for Britain's seizure of the Iranian Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar earlier this month. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran British authorities seized the Iranian Grace 1 supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, on suspicion it was carrying crude to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. The fate of the tanker has been at the centre of escalating tensions between the UK and Iran and was seen as a pawn in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West. Mr Hunt had hinted that the UK would release the ship if Iran promised its cargo would not go to the Syrian regime. The Foreign Secretary said talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had been productive. However, a court in Gibraltar on Friday extended for 30 days the detention of the vessel, which was carrying two million barrels of oil. Tensions have been building for weeks in the Persian Gulf. On July 10, HMS Montrose intervened to drive three Iranian military vessels that were attempting to divert the British Heritage. Iran seized a Panama-flagged ship on Sunday, it alleges, for “smuggling oil to foreign countries”. Mystery surrounds the capture as no country has come forward to claim the ship or its cargo. The US claimed on Thursday to have downed an Iranian drone that had been flying too close to one of its navy ships. Iran denied the claims. Oil prices rose on Friday night after the tankers were seized. The Trump administration is trying to block Iran’s exports to put pressure on it to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal it abandoned last year. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot export its oil. 6:41AM Boris Johnson could face early diplomatic test Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker couldn’t have come at a worse time for the UK - and Tehran knows it. While Theresa May has days left as Prime Minister, her foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been in the midst of a leadership election campaign to replace her. His rival, Boris Johnson, is the favourite to win the Tory battle, but the former foreign secretary will be carrying diplomatic baggage if he enters Number 10. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the start of their meeting in Tehran in 2017 Credit: AP “The timing from a transition viewpoint is awful,” said Dr Euan Graham, an expert in maritime security and Executive Director of La Trobe Asia. “It could be an instant early test of Johnson’s crisis management skills, or lack thereof, if the issue is unresolved and he becomes PM next week.” Read the full analysis. 6:37AM Oil tanker was involved in 'accident', Iran claims Iranian media claims the Stena Impero was in an accident with a fishing boat before being detained on Friday. All 23 crew seized on the tanker are now at Bandar Abbas port and will remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, Iran's Fars news agency reported on Saturday, quoting an official. "It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it," said the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour. "The tanker is now at Iran's Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over." 5:11AM US official plays down seizure An American military official has played down the latest escalation in the region, calling it a foreseeable response to Britain's seizure of the Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. In a discussion with journalists at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Lt. Gen Robert P. Ashley Jr., the top military intelligence officer, said: “They look for things that are proportional in nature. They aren’t looking to go to war but at the same time they are looking to project strength.” “They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control because war is not what they’re looking for,” Ashley said. “But at the same time, their decision calculus is they’ve gotta do something in response.” My story coming soon...— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) July 19, 2019 3:54AM 'This is precisely how Iran negotiates' Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, has told AFP that the recent events involving Tehran are "the exact opposite of odd." "This is precisely how Iran negotiates: the unctuous charm of (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif paired with a punch in the face from the (Revolutionary Guards). They are two sides of the same coin, complementary and coordinated." Nicholas Burns, US ambassador to NATO during President George W. Bush’s administration, suggested resurrecting a 1980s policy of having tankers accompanied by military escorts in the Gulf. “We should form an international coalition of democratic countries to escort every single commercial vessel through the gulf,” Burns told Bloomberg in an interview in Colorado. “The Iranians are an outlaw, they’re acting like an outlaw country, they’re trying to shut down one of the major waterways in the world and then hold us up on it and blackmail us.” 2:56AM Saudi Arabia to host US forces The US Defence Department has confirmed that Saudi Arabia will host US forces in the region, saying it would deploy troops and resources to the country to "provide an additional deterrent" in the face of "emergent, credible threats." The gesture comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf, as well as the seizure of the British oil tanker in the region. The decision on hosting US forces aims "to increase joint cooperation in defence of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace", the state news agency (SPA) reported, quoting a Ministry of Defence official, without giving further details. US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. (C-L), Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), shakes hands with Saudi military officers during his visit to a military base in al-Kharj in central Saudi Arabia on Thursday Credit: AFP A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the deployment would include about 500 US military personnel in Saudi Arabia, and is part of a boost in the number of US troops in the Middle East that the Pentagon announced last month. In June, the Pentagon said it would deploy 1,000 troops to the Middle East but did not say where they were going. Saudi Arabia has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they withdrew following the end of the war with Iraq. 2:13AM What has led to this seizure? The seizure of the Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz is the latest episode to contribute to rising tensions between the UK, US and Iran in the region. Here is a timeline of recent incidents involving the three nations: Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran 1:28AM Government warns UK shipping to avoid Strait of Hormuz After a COBR meeting this evening, the government is urging UK shipping the avoid the Strait of Hormuz region. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation. We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period. “As the Foreign Secretary has said, our response will be considered and robust and there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved. “We remain in close contact with our international partners and there will be further meetings over the weekend." 12:57AM Oil tanker was 'in full compliance of regulations' The British operator of the Stena Impero was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations, a spokesman has said. Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted a military source as saying the vessel had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guards and was sailing in the wrong direction in a shipping lane. "There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality," said Erik Hanell, President and Chief Executive of the operator, Stena Bulk. "There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus." The ship "is no longer under the control of the crew and remains uncontactable", he added. British oil tanker seized in the Gulf 12:45AM Corbyn says Trump fuelled risk of conflict Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, responding to the seizure of two British tankers by Iranian forces, said: "The seizure of these vessels is unacceptable, and the tanker that remains under Iranian control must be released. Escalation risks a slide into an even deeper conflict. "President Trump's decision to tear up the Iran nuclear deal fuelled the risk of full-scale conflict. "A negotiated reinstatement of the nuclear deal through the UN is essential to wind down tensions and defuse the threat of war in the Gulf." 12:12AM US sought 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensions Hours before the hijacking of the British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, America's special representative for Iran was explaining its position to diplomats in Washington, Josie Ensor reports. Some 100 envoys took part in the briefing by Brian Hook, who outlined the Trump administration's initiative for maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran released footage on Friday from what it said was the "downed drone" Credit: AFP Mr Hook said tensions had risen sharply and necessitated the need for a "coalition" of navies to protect their ships through the strait. Read the full story. 11:52PM US intensifying air patrols in region US Central Command says the US has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the Iranian seizure of a British tanker. A Central Command spokesman, Lt. Col. Earl Brown, says a small number of additional patrol aircraft are flying in international airspace to monitor the situation. He also says Central Command's naval arm has been in contact with U.S. ships operating in the area to ensure their safety. 11:22PM Stena Impero 'surrounded by four vessels and helicopter' Mr Hunt said the Stena Impero was surrounded by four vessels and a helicopter, and is heading into Iranian waters. The second ship - the Mesdar - was surrounded by 10 speedboats, Mr Hunt told Sky, though said it was "not clear yet" whether it had changed course. He said he had spoken to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo this evening about the situation and had tried to speak to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif but he is on a plane. "I will speak to him as soon as I can", Mr Hunt said. 11:21PM Hunt warns of 'serious consequences' Mr Hunt warned there would be "serious consequences" if the situation is not resolved quickly. He told Sky News: "We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences." Asked if he could rule out military intervention, Mr Hunt said: "We're not looking at military options - we're looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation - but we are very clear that it must be resolved. "Freedom of navigation in the Gulf is absolutely essential. If that freedom of navigation is restricted, Iran is the biggest loser and so it is in their interest to resolve this situation as quickly as possible and we will do everything we can to do that." 10:31PM Tanker released? Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency said Iran's Revolutionary Guards had not captured the Mesdar. "Despite reports, the ship has not been seized...and was allowed to continue its course after being warned about safety issues by Iranian forces," the report said. A spokesman for Norbulk Shipping UK confirmed the crew of the Mesdar are "safe and well" and the vessel has been "allowed" to continue its voyage. 9:16PM Is it rash to sail through the Strait? Sir Richard Dalton, former British ambassador to Iran, suggested the owners of the Stena Impero had been "rash" in sailing the tanker through the Strait of Hormuz. Speaking to Sky News, he said Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had promised retaliation following the detention of Iran's Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waving to the crowd during a ceremony attended by Iranian clerics in the Iranian capital Tehran, on July 16 Sir Richard said: "With hindsight, it's easy to say that this was a somewhat reckless act by the owners, given that there was no British naval vessel in the vicinity." He said the Iranians had "lost their cool" despite recent "constructive discussions" over the Grace 1. Sir Richard added: "I don't think the Iranians will continue to try to seize British vessels given they have got what they want, which is something to hold in a negotiation with Britain about their cargo held, they consider illegally, in Gibraltar." 9:07PM UK Chamber of Shipping calls for increased protection for vessels Bob Sanguinetti, the CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, says: “We condemn unreservedly the capture of Stena Impero as she transited the Strait of Hormuz earlier today. The action by those involved is in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters. “Our priority is for the safety and welfare of the crew. We call on the UK Government to do whatever is necessary to ensure their safe and swift return. An Iranian navy boat trying to control fire from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker, said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman in June “This incident represents an escalation. Whilst we call for measured response, it is also clear that further protection for merchant vessels must be forthcoming to ensure enhanced security to guarantee free flow of trade in the region.” 9:03PM Donald Trump being kept informed President Donald Trump said he would "talk to the UK" about the incident. “We heard about it,” he said. "We don’t have many tankers going in.” Donald Trump said he is being kept abreast of developments "This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble," he said. Trump said "Iran is showing their colors" and "in big trouble right now" because its economy has been crippled by U.S. economic sanctions. The U.S. has asked Mideast allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in past weeks to contribute financially and militarily to a Trump administration proposal called the Sentinel Program - a coalition of nations working with the U.S. to preserve maritime security in the Persian Gulf and keep eyes on Iran. 8:54PM Foreign Secretary responds Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz. “I will shortly attend a COBR meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels - a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel. “Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary “Our Ambassador in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and we are working closely with international partners. “These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.” 8:50PM Crew from multiple countries Our Political Editor, Gordon Rayner, writes: A Government source said the crews on board the two ships are “a range of nationalities” but no Britons are among the crews of either ship. A Conta meeting due to start at 10.30 tonight will be chaired by either Jeremy Hunt or David Lidington.
On July 12, 2019, Turkey began receiving the first batch of the S-400 deliveries from Russia. Ankara’s aspirant procurement can fundamentally transform the Turkish military strategic posture.Above all, acquiring a game-changing Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) system will lead to drastic changes in the Turkish Air Force’s concept of operations (CONOPS). Inevitably, a novel operational art revolving around anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) will gradually dominate Turkey’s defense planning. Nowadays, the frenzy of colored maps illustrating projected S-400 kill zones has already caught on with the Turkish press, which has little, if any, knowledge about engagement envelopes and radar coverage in different topographies. Secondly, the S-400 introduces not only new capabilities but an alien strategic culture to the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), noting that contemporary Russian air defense understanding is rooted in the Soviet legacy of the late 1970s. Thirdly, at some point, the TAF will have to alter its doctrinal order of battle to digest a strategic SAM capacity efficiently. Finally, amidst possible sanctions, which would unavoidably hit the Turkish defense sector’s ties—not only with American entities but also with Europe—Russia may well become an indispensable arms supplier for Turkey.Would Turkey Establish a SAM-Dominant Air Force?
Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/GettyFilmmaker and conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone has made no secret of his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but now he has taken it to a whole new level by trying to make him his 22-year-old daughter’s godfather. “Does she want to become an Orthodox Christian?” Putin asked when Stone floated the idea during a sit-down in the Kremlin. “We’ll make her that [Orthodox],” Stone replied, according to a transcript of the interview put out by the Kremlin Friday. Putin appeared to wriggle his way out of the proposal (“You have to ask her,” he said) before Stone went on to complain about “American culture,” taking particular issue with what he described as a focus on gender identity and people labeling themselves as “transgender” and “cisgender.” Stone quickly steered the conversation toward a controversial 2013 Russian law banning “homosexual propaganda” among minors, a law which experts say has prompted a surge of homophobic violence in the country. “It seems like maybe that’s a sensible law,” Stone said. The interview, transcripts of which were released Friday, took place in mid-June, shortly before Stone announced the upcoming premiere of his new documentary Revealing Ukraine, which purports to “investigate” the “ongoing Ukrainian crisis” but seems instead to serve as a promotional spot for pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk. The “documentary” has been hyped up by Russian state media, where it premiered on Friday. It was also due to air on Ukraine’s 112 TV channel, which Medvedchuk reportedly took control of late last year, but the station said it was forced to cancel the broadcast after protests. Stone has claimed his dabblings in Ukraine offer viewers a new perspective on the 2014 Maidan revolution and war in Donbass that he says “Western media has largely ignored,” but that “perspective” has relied solely on claims fed to him by pro-Russia politicians, Putin allies, and Putin himself. In his sit-down with the Russian president, Stone vacillated between spouting off common Kremlin propaganda on Ukraine and fawning over Putin as a “peacemaker.” After echoing the Kremlin conspiracy theory that the pro-Russian leaders in Kyiv accused of gunning down innocent protesters in the 2014 revolution were actually framed in some vast conspiracy that may or may not have involved former U.S. President Barack Obama, and that Ukraine, not Russia was to blame for interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Stone expressed concerns about Putin’s emotional well-being. “You sound very depressed, much more depressed than last time,” he said, later adding, “I am very worried about you.” The two ended the interview by taking a parting picture together. Oliver Stone’s Latest Piece of Pro-Putin Propaganda May Be His Most Shameless Move YetRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Hong Kong's youth are no rookies when it comes to protests. Using a range of new tactics, they have helped rally hundreds of thousands of fellow Hong Kong residents to take to the streets over the past month. The Hong Kong-based web forum LIHKG and Telegram, the encrypted messaging app, have served as crucial organizing platforms for the largely leaderless protests.
Fires at two transmission substations in Wisconsin's capital on Friday knocked out power to thousands of customers on the hottest day of the year to-date, sending dual plumes of thick, black smoke into the air and shutting down government buildings, courtrooms and businesses, and leading the governor to declare a state of emergency. The city said it's not clear whether the foam actually contained PFAS, but it is being tested and steps were taken to lessen the spread of water and foam.
Over 300 soldiers were found to have enlisted after either failing a required fitness test, or never taking it at all, according to documents obtained by Army Times.In 2017, the Army was straining to meet its goal of 476,000 active-duty soldiers, meaning the service had to bring in 68,000 recruits. The Occupational Physical Assessment Test was new, and Army Times reports that recruiters implicated in the investigation — 297 of them — "figured the recruits would sort out their fitness levels at basic."According to the report obtained by Army Times, recruiters "perceived that they were under pressure by the mission increase and the requirement to fill training seats during a historically low period of accessions into the Army to ship recruits as quickly as possible."The investigators who looked into the issue also wrote in their report that many of the recruiters "did not fully grasp how to administer the OPAT or the significance of the testing requirements."The investigation involved 38 of the Army's recruiting battalions, excluding only New York City and Richmond, Virginia. Per Army Times, the worst offender was Dallas, Texas, passing through 38 untested recruits who never took the fitness test.Overall there were 318 soldiers who said they either never took the test, or that they failed it; 228 allegations were substantiated, and U.S. Army Recruiting Command spokeswoman Lisa Ferguson told Army Times that "appropriate action was taken in each case."
An elderly South Korean man died on Friday after setting himself on fire outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul as a bitter diplomatic dispute over wartime forced labour compensation took a fatal turn. The row has seen Tokyo restrict exports of chemicals vital to Seoul's world-leading chip and smartphone industry in an escalation of a decades-long dispute over Japanese forced labour during World War II.
The United States on Friday offered a $7 million reward to find a Hezbollah operative accused of masterminding a deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to unite Latin American nations against the militants. Pompeo visited to mark the 25th anniversary of Argentina's deadliest attack, lighting a candle at the site of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association where a plaque lists the names of the 85 dead.
A Venezuelan teenager who lost his eyesight when he was hit by police buckshot during a protest said Friday that he wants to continue studying. Wearing reflective sunglasses, 16-year-old Rufo Chacón also spoke about difficult living conditions in his home state of Táchira, where he was injured during a demonstration over a lack of cooking gas early this month. "You see continuous darkness," Chacón told journalists outside the Caracas office of Foro Penal, a human rights group.
Britain said Iran's seizure of a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf. "I'm extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. "I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels - a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel," he said.
GIUSEPPE CACACEIran’s military seized a British tanker in the Persian Gulf on Friday, further ratcheting up the tensions between Tehran and Western powers in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced via state-run news outlets that it had seized the British tanker Stena Impero “for failing to respect international maritime rules.”The seizure comes as an apparent response to Britain’s detention of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in early July and comes on the heels of a series of alleged Iranian attacks on Japanese, European, and Middle Eastern tankers in the Gulf of Oman. British officials told reporters that they are “urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation.” A British official told The Daily Beast that the incident is currently being discussed at the highest levels of the British government. Separately, Defense Department officials confirmed to CNN that Iran had captured a second tanker on Friday, the MV Mesdar, a Liberian-flagged vessel. As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War With IsraelBefore Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced the seizure on Friday, vessel tracking data showed the Stena Impero diverting off course and towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, home to a number of IRGC-N facilities. A statement posted to the website of Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management, the ship’s owner, said the Stena Impero “was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.” The company said there are 23 crew members aboard the ship at present.Earlier this week, Iran announced that it had seized another tanker, the MT Riah, after it disappeared and was last seen heading towards Qeshm. The Riah had been owned by a United Arab Emirates company but Emirati officials denied that the Riah was owned or operated by Emirati entities. Iranian officials claimed to have seized the vessel after it allegedly engaged in oil smuggling. The British tanker incident follows a series of Iranian threats to retaliate against the U.K. for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in early July. Royal Marines boarded the Grace 1 tanker on the grounds that it was allegedly delivering oil to the Assad regime in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran denied that the tanker was headed for Syria and demanded its release. A Gibraltar court ruled on Friday that the ship must stay detained for at least another month. In the wake of the seizure, senior Iranian military and political officials vowed retaliation against the U.K. for taking the Grace 1. Iran’s top military officer, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said the British seizure “will not go unanswered” and that Iran would respond “at an appropriate time and place.” President Hassan Rouhani also threatened that the U.K. “will realize the consequences later” for its actions. On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed the threats and said Iran “will not leave such evil deeds unanswered.”Iran appeared to try and make good on those threats in early July when IRGC Navy (IRGC-N) vessels harassed a BP tanker, British Heritage, as it sailed by the Iranian island of Abu Musa. IRGC-N boats tried to stop the tanker before a British Navy frigate, HMS Montrose, trained its guns on the boats and ordered them to move away. Before the incident, the British Heritage had anchored off the coast of Saudi Arabia, wary of sailing the Gulf in light of Iranian threats to British shipping. Those anxieties are shared among British shippers who have watched the escalating tensions between the U.K. and Iran with concern. Britain’s department of transport raised its threat level for vessels in the Gulf to “critical” while maritime organizations have urged shippers not to escalate the threat by hiring armed private security contractors to guard their ships. The U.K. announced earlier this week that it would send an additional warship to the Gulf, the HMS Duncan, a guided missile destroyer, to provide security for its vessels.In May, following the announcement of an expedited deployment of U.S. warships and bombers to the Gulf, six tankers were attacked by apparent limpet mines in two separate incidents off the coast of the United Arab Emirates Fujairah port and in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blamed Iran naval commandos for both attacks and released footage of Iranian troops removing a device from the hull of a ship that had recently been attacked. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Marcus Mitchell, 24, filed the lawsuit Thursday against Morton County, the city of Bismarck and state Highway Patrol officers. Highway Patrol spokesman Wade Kadrmas declined comment, citing pending litigation. A Morton County official didn't immediately respond to the Bismarck Tribune's request for comment Thursday.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who has drawn criticism from President Donald Trump for assessments that countered his policies, said on Friday he was creating a new position to focus solely on U.S. election security. "Election security is an enduring challenge and a top priority for the IC (international community)," Coats said in a statement. Coats said he had tapped Shelby Pierson, the DNI's crisis manager for election security during the 2018 congressional elections, for the job.