By Muhammad Mussa
LONDON (AA) – The U.K. government has raised the threat level on British ships traveling in the Persian Gulf amid fears of exposure to attack from Iran.
The government had raised the threat level to “critical” on Tuesday, which aimed at around 30 U.K.-owned commercial ships that pass through the Persian Gulf on a daily basis and have been warned to stay away from Iranian waters.
On Wednesday, a British warship prevented three Iranian navy vessels from obstructing the course of a British tanker exiting the Persian Gulf. The government accused Iran of breaching international law as the tanker was not in Iranian waters.
The British warship HMS Montrose and three other minor vessels are operating in the Gulf but lack the capacity to escort all London-based commercial ships through the contentious Strait of Hormuz.
Defense officials are reviewing on whether to deploy more warships to ensure the safety of British ships. However, due to the defense budget cuts enacted by the government, this may prove difficult.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Latest incident with Iranian boats in the Gulf shows exactly why we must invest more in defense.”
“We have run down our Navy too much and this must now be urgently reversed. We need to show confidence in the world by putting our money where our mouth is!,” Hunt said.
The British-Iranian confrontation in the Gulf occurred on the same day when the police in Gibraltar arrested captain and the chief officer of an Iranian oil tanker, which was seized last week while attempting to transport oil to Syria.
Iran has demanded the release of its crew and vessel and has threatened London of retaliatory measures, rhetoric that is raising tensions between the two nations in a region already inflamed with war and brinkmanship with the west.