Iran's Rouhani Warns UK Faces 'Consequences' For Seizing Oil Supertanker Off Gibraltar

Iran President Hassan Rouhani said the United Kingdom will face "consequences" for its seizure of an Iranian supertanker off Gibraltar last week.

British Royal Marines boarded the Grace 1 oil supertanker last week over suspicions it was carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria. The supertanker now sits in British-controlled waters in the overseas territory of Gibraltar. Rouhani, speaking on state television Wednesday, did not address whether or not the oil was bound for Syria, but did warn the U.K. that Iran views its seizure as a conflict initiation.

"You [the United Kingdom] are the initiator of insecurity and you will realize the consequences later," Rouhani said after a Wednesday cabinet meeting through state television, Reuters first reported. Al-Jazeera transcribed the speech saying Rouhani labeled the U.K.'s action an "act of piracy" that would not go unpunished.

The Gibraltar government issued a statement saying they believe the oil was headed to Syria's Baniyas refinery.

"Now you are so hopeless that, when one of your tankers wants to move in the region, you have to bring your frigates [to escort it] because you are scared. Then why do you commit such acts? You should instead allow navigation to be safe," Rouhani continued.

Rouhani and the Iranian government's criticism in the recent past has primarily been directed at the Trump administration as it seeks to increase sanctions against the Middle Eastern country. Several top congressional Republicans, including Arkansas GOP Senator Tom Cotton, have ramped up calls for military action against Iran, particularly after attacks against commercial oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last month.

"These unprovoked attacks on commercial shipping warrant a retaliatory military strike," Cotton said last month. "The fastest way to get the fire and the fury of the U.S. military unleashed on you is to interfere with the freedom of navigation on the open seas and in the air," Cotton continued. "That's exactly what Iran is doing."

Last year, Rouhani urged European leaders to work with Iran to counter the Trump administration's and U.S. Republicans' increasingly aggressive stance toward the Islamic Republic. Talks still continue over the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran aimed at halting their nuclear fuel enrichment activities that the U.S. left last year.

Iran is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's top allies in the region. Syria is under U.S. sanctions due to an ongoing and violent civil war in the the country that has left hundreds of thousands dead over the past eight years. The E.U. also has sanctions barring crude oil from being sent to Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a military parade surrounded by officers during a ceremony marking the country's annual army day in Tehran, Iran on April 18 STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Shipping data reviewed by Reuters showed the Grace 1 tanker had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, but the ship's documents say the oil originates from the neighboring country of Iraq.

Although it is unclear how often oil is sent between Iran and Syria, Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif appeared to suggest it's a routine that should not be of concern to the British:

"Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo. Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality," Zarif tweeted, calling the seizure "piracy, pure and simple."

"It sets a dangerous precedent and must end now," his tweet read.

Iran's Rouhani Warns UK Faces 'Consequences' For Seizing Oil Supertanker Off Gibraltar | World