Iranian forces on Thursday seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker that was bound for Texas, according to the U.S. Navy.
The Navy’s 5th Fleet said the oil tanker Advantage Sweet was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Gulf of Oman, which lies between the Arabian Sea and the Strait of Hormuz.
The American naval fleet said the merchant ship issued a distress call, and the U.S. is monitoring the situation.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker.”
It was not immediately clear why the IRGC seized the vessel, but the U.S. says Iran has seized five commercial vessels in the Middle East in the past two years. The Gulf of Oman lies in the backyard waters of Iran.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated after indirect talks over reviving a deal to halt Tehran’s nuclear buildup have largely failed.
Washington has also accused Iran of supplying explosive drones to Russia for use in the war against Ukraine.
The U.S. deploys boats and forces in the Middle East region to protect oil tankers and other traffic. Lately, those deployments have also included unmanned vessels, or drone boats.