Iranian navy opened fire on oil tanker in the Gulf, say US officials - Middle East - World
The incident unnerved the shipping industry just as President Barack Obama met with Gulf allies to try to allay their concerns that Iran would be empowered by a deal to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the West lifting sanctions.
US officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said five Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy ships approached the Alpine Eternity oil products tanker at about noon local time, prompting the ship to flee to safety in United Arab Emirates' waters.
One US official said Iran had attempted to intercept the vessel in international waters because Tehran says the tanker is liable for damage to an Iranian-owned oil platform it hit on 22 March.
The White House, Pentagon and State Department declined to confirm emerging details about the episode but acknowledged concern about Iran's conduct.
"This is exactly the type of challenge that many of the (Gulf) partners are focused on," said White House Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes.
Two weeks ago, Iranian patrol ships diverted a Marshall Islands-flagged container vessel from the Strait of Hormuz to settle a years-old debt case.
Shipping industry officials said they were bracing for the likelihood of even more tensions at sea, which could lead to a spike in shipping costs.
"The pattern looks like the Revolutionary Guards are using a commercial pretext to intervene in the incidents to date," said one shipping underwriter. "This could start to impact upon (insurance) rates."