Iran threat to British vessels in the Gulf 'hasn't gone away' Royal Navy boss warns
IRAN’S threat to British shipping in the Gulf ‘hasn’t gone away’, the head of the Royal Navy has warned.
Admiral Tony Radakin issued the stark alert today. It comes after Iran’s revolutionary Guard seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Straits of Hormuz in July.
In an interview with The News, last month, Royal Navy commanders stationed in the region insisted relations were ‘cordial’ between Britain and Tehran.
But the First Sea Lord has said the threat is far from gone and described the seizing of Stena Impero as ‘aggressive’ and ‘outrageous’. The incident followed the seizure of an Iranian tanker by the Royal Marines near Gibraltar.
The admiral insisted the UK wanted to ‘de-escalate’ tensions with Iran following the tanker’s release but stressed Britain would still have a heightened military presence in the Gulf.
But speaking in his first interview since becoming Britain’s top sailor, Adm Radakin told the BBC: ‘We have to react to when a nation is as aggressive as Iran was.
‘It was an outrageous act that happened on the high seas and that's why we have responded the way that we have.’
The Stena Impero was released two months after it was seized by Iran for allegedly breaking maritime rules.
At the time of the raid, the UK only had one frigate – HMS Montrose – stationed in the region. She has since been joined by Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Defender, which is expected to remain in the region into the New Year.
Adm Radakin insisted the UK would continue to work with the US-led coalition, known as ‘Operation Sentinel’, which counts sailors from Portsmouth among its HQ staff in Bahrain.
However, the First Sea Lord said Britain would not join a rival European operation being set up by France, claiming there were ‘very simple practical reasons’ for backing the US mission instead.
Although backing America’s coalition, Adm Radakin insisted that the UK had ‘been very clear’ it did not support President Donald Trump’s policy of maximum pressure on Iran.
Elsewhere, the admiral said his greatest challenge was in the north Atlantic, where he warned Russian submarine activity was at a 30-year high.
He said this could pose a threat to Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines, which must operate undetected.
The admiral also outlined his bold plans to transform the Royal Navy and invest in technology to meet new threats, including ‘from space and cyber’.