Video of Iran Oil Tanker Seizure Allegedly Shows Guards Aiming Guns at U.S. Destroyer

Footage of Iranian forces seizing a Vietnamese oil tanker is shedding some light on an incident last month in the Gulf of Oman.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. forces saw the seizure occur on October 24 but did not intervene. A new video shows the Iranian Guard supposedly pointing machine guns at the missile destroyer USS The Sullivans. Commandos also allegedly entered the ship from a helicopter, with small boats surrounding it.

Iranian state media claimed that the U.S. attempted to seize a tanker carrying Iranian oil, with the Guard eventually freeing it.

"It's a bogus claim," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. "The only seizing that was done was by Iran."

The Iranian Guard seized the MV Sothys, which analysts are speculating was attempting to transfer crude oil to Asia. No crew members were injured.

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Pham Thu Hang, Vietnam will "continue to closely follow the developments and work closely with Iranian authorities to resolve this issue in accordance with the law and enact necessary measures to safeguard the rights and interests of Vietnamese nationals."

Kirby also said that the seizure "constituted a blatant violation of international law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

USS The Sullivans
Iranian forces allegedly pointed machine guns at the USS The Sullivans on October 24. The ship is seen here during a 2017 Veterans Day celebration. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The episode was the latest provocation in Mideast waters as tensions escalate between Iran and the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran celebrated its capture of the vessel in dramatic footage aired on state television Wednesday, the day before the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Ship-tracking data analyzed by AP from showed the vessel still off Iran's southern port of Bandar Abbas on Tuesday. A satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. also showed the vessel off Bandar Abbas in recent days.

Tehran also did not provide the ship's name, or other details, nor any explanation of why the Navy might target it. Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A shipping database showed the Sothys' last registered owner as OPEC Petrol Transportation Co., a firm with a Hanoi address. On Thursday, a worker at the office acknowledged an incident involving the Sothys but referred questions to another employee who wasn't there. That employee did not immediately return a request for comment.

However, the Sothys had been on the radar of United Against a Nuclear Iran, a New York-based advocacy group long suspicious of the Islamic Republic. In a letter dated Oct. 11 addressed to the Vietnam Maritime Administration, the group said its analysis of satellite photos showed the Sothys received a ship-to-ship transfer of oil in June from an oil tanker called the Oman Pride.

The U.S. Treasury identified the Oman Pride in August as being used to transport Iranian oil as part of a smuggling scheme to enrich the Guard's expeditionary Quds Force. That Iranian oil ends up being sold into East Asia, the Treasury alleged, without identifying a specific country.

Iran's seizure of the Sothys would be the latest in a string of hijackings and explosions to roil the Gulf of Oman, which sits near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes.

The U.S. Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as for a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed two European crew members earlier this year. Just a few months ago, Iranian hijackers stormed and briefly captured a Panama-flagged asphalt tanker off the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a wider shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the region's volatile waters since then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed crushing sanctions on the country.

Iran Seizure Video Grab
Footage of Iranian forces seizing a Vietnamese oil tanker is shedding some light on an incident last month in the Gulf of Oman. Revolutionary Guard via AP