Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign policy adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has heaped praise on Iran's recent downing of a US drone and its seizing of a UK-flagged tanker.
“Islamic countries […] are today stronger than before as shown by the seizure of the British oil tanker or the downing of the US drone which violated Iran’s territory — which are milestones in the history of Muslims’ struggle,” Velayati was quoted by the Iranian news agency Fars as saying.
Velayati's remarks come a few days after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero over an alleged breach of international maritime regulations on 19 July.
Iran's Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani made it clear that the tanker’s seizure was in retaliation for the detention of the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1 in the Straits of Gibraltar by British military earlier this month.
The Stena Impero’s seizure comes almost a month after the IRGC claimed that it had brought down a US Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone flying over the coastal province of Hormozgan.
The US Central Command has insisted that the drone was hit while operating over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The incident further exacerbated already strained ties between Iran and the US, which have been simmering since US President Donald Trump announced that he planned to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, while reinstating harsh economic sanctions against Iran.
A year later, the Islamic Republic signalled that it was suspending some of its obligations under the Iran deal, a move that was followed by the US boosting its military presence in the Persian Gulf in what US National Security Adviser John Bolton described as “a clear and unmistakable signal” to Iran.
At the same time, Trump said that he hopes to avoid a war with Tehran, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also saying that Iran does not intend to wage war with the US but that it will continue to resist its pressure.