Apr 28, 2015

Iran Intercepts Cargo Ship, US Moves to Respond

Iranian vessels fired upon a cargo ship flagged to the Marshall Islands Tuesday morning, forcing the ship to travel deeper into Iranian waters — and setting off another round of tensions between Iran and the US.
Iranian patrol vessels intercepted the shipping vessel Maersk Tigris around 5 a.m. Washington time. At that time, the vessels ordered the ship to travel deeper into Iranian waters. It is not clear if the Maersk had inadvertently traveled into Iranian territory.
When the Maersk did not respond immediately, the Iranian vessels fired shots across the bow of the cargo ship, which then complied with the order. The Iranian forces then boarded the vessel.
The ship is now located in the "vicinity" of Larak Island, in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship was traveling from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Jebel Ali in the UAE.
Although the Marshall Islands are a sovereign nation, the US has "full authority and responsibility for security and defense" of the islands, according to a State Department fact sheet. That puts a US response in play in what represents an escalation of the standoff between Iran and the US.
After receiving a distress signal from the cargo ship, Naval Forces Central Command dispatched the destroyer Farragut to proceed at best speed to the location of the Maersk and has sent a single maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the situation.
The past week has seen a spike in tensions between the two countries after US Navy ships began shadowing a convoy of Iranian cargo ships that the Pentagon believed may be carrying weapons to aid militant forces in Yemen.
That situation dispersed last week when the Iranian convoy turned away from Yemen.

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