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Iran starts 20% uranium enrichment, seizes oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Moves come on anniversary of Soleimani's death
Posted at 6:29 AM, Jan 04, 2021

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian state television has acknowledged that Tehran seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The report on Monday alleged the MT Hankuk Chemi had been stopped by Iranian authorities over alleged “oil pollution” in the Persian Gulf and the strait.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s naval forces seized the ship.

Satellite data from showed the MT Hankuk Chemi off the port of Bandar Abbas on Monday afternoon without explanation.

It had been traveling from Saudi Arabia to Fujairah in the UAE.

The ship’s owners could not be immediately reached for comment.

The announcement came the same day that state media quoted a government spokesperson as saying that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had given an order to begin 20% uranium enrichment at a nuclear facility in Fordo.

About a decade ago, Iran’s decision to begin enriching uranium at 20% prompted U.S. diplomacy and ultimately led to a 2015 nuclear agreement. However, the U.S. withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed economic sanctions on the country, a move that has escalated tensions in recent months.

Iran’s announcements came on the one year anniversary of a U.S. drone strike that led to the death of Qassem Soleimani, then the head of the Revolutionary Guard. Days later, Iran responded with a missile launch that targeted U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and led to dozens of injuries.

The same evening as the missile launch, Tehran shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people. Iran maintains that the missile launch at the passenger jet was an accident.