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.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 10:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 4:38 pm

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.

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.

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Pictured: First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin speaks to guests as HMS Prince of Wales arrives in Portsmouth. Photo: LPho Ben Corbett

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.

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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.’

HMS Kent provides protection to a British tanker in the Gulf. Photo: Royal Navy

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.

HMS Montrose escorting the container ship Brighton in the Gulf. Credit: LPhot Rory Arnold Pictured here is HMS MONTROSE escorting the container ship ''BRIGHTON'' in the Gulf. Nearly six million tonnes of British shipping has been safeguarded by the Royal Navy in the first two months of protecting vessels from Iranian aggression. Nearly 90 British merchant ships were safely shepherded through the Strait of Hormuz by frigate HMS Montrose and destroyer HMS Duncan during a hectic two months responding to threats by Teheran. Montrose passed through the narrow gateway to the Gulf 38 times – each time harassed by Iranian forces, from radio taunts and drones watching every move overhead through to Revolutionary Guards wielding rocket launchers and fast missile boats racing up menacingly.

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.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, pictured right, with Captain Darren Houston, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, during the warship's commissioning ceremony in Portsmouth last week. Photo: Joe Cater.

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’.