UK Royal Navy chief warns ‘aggressive’ Iranian threat persists

In July, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps seized British-flagged 'Stena Impero' in Strait of Hormuz

In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, photo made available by U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, left, the air-defense destroyer HMS Defender and the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut transit the Strait of Hormuz with the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf. The U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln sent to the Mideast in May over tensions with Iran transited the narrow Strait of Hormuz for the first time on Tuesday. The ship previously had been in the Arabian Sea outside of the Persian Gulf. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Pearson/U.S. Navy via AP)
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Iranian attacks on shipping in the Strait of Hormuz remain a threat, Britain’s most senior naval officer warned, announcing Britain will retain a heightened military presence in the Arabian Gulf.

Adm Tony Radakin, who became Britain’s First Sea Lord this year, told the BBC the Iranian threat, which he called aggressive and outrageous, had “not gone away”.

Adm Radakin said it was his hope that Britain could ease tension with Tehran after the release of the British-flagged Stena Impero, which was seized by Iran in July.

But he said the Royal Navy would retain its high military presence in the region for now.

"We have to react to when a nation is as aggressive as Iran was,” Adm Radakin said.

"It was an outrageous act that happened on the high seas and that's why we have responded the way that we have."

British government and military officials have been deeply critical of the UK's readiness at the time of the Stena Impero's seizure.

Adm Radakin’s predecessor, Adm Lord West, said the British response had been poor.

Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, who was in post at the time, said her attempts to have the Iranian threat to shipping in the Gulf addressed by her government were ignored.

The seizure of the ship was largely interpreted as a retaliatory measure by Iran in response to British forces' detention of the Adrian Darya-1, previously called Grace 1, which was held on suspicion of breaking EU sanctions on Syria earlier in July.

Despite the likelihood of a response from Tehran, the UK had only one vessel, the HMS Montrose, stationed near by when the seizure took place.

The frigate has since been replaced by the destroyer HMS Defender.

Adm Radakin has also addressed UK strategy in the Gulf.

He said Britain would continue to support the US-led coalition, known as Operation Sentinel, around the Strait of Hormuz and would not join a rival operation being formed by France.

Adm Radakin welcomed the French initiative but praised the effective partnership between the US and the UK in the Arabian Gulf, saying there were "very simple, practical reasons" to remain part of the US-led initiative.