Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 12 in retaliation to the British Royal Marines seizing its oil tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar on July 4.
Strait of Hormuz
Situated between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Strait of Hormuz has Iran on its north and Oman peninsula on its south. With almost one-third of the global crude oil passing through this stretch, it is one the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Its size – 21 nautical miles at its narrowest point – forces tankers to pass the stretch from the territorial waters of Iran and Oman.
Tension with Iran
The US has bitter relations with Iran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that established strict Islamic rule by deposing the US-backed Shah of Iran. But the present-day military standoff is the result of 2000 economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, US and the European Union.
2000 economic sanctions
The world was of the view that Iran was developing nuclear capabilities with the help of a uranium enrichment program and that it could use the nuclear power to make weapons. In 2013, the then US President Barack Obama opened dialogue with the new regime in Iran. After two years, Iran agreed to scale down its nuclear development program and let the international inspectors visit its facilities with the condition of lifting the sanctions. But the agreement got struck.
US President Trump quit from the deal and re-imposed the sanctions. Also, the US increased its military activities in the Gulf leading to attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and Iranian forces shooting down a US military drone.
British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker alleged to be taking oil to Syria in violation to the EU sanctions. Iran retaliated by seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
UK has asked for quick release of its tanker. Germany and France are standing with the UK but Trump is still tweeting on the matter.