The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a statement on Wednesday confirmed that Iran has released the Vietnamese oil tanker that it seized for trying to “steal” its oil in late October following a clash with the United States’ Navy in the Sea of Oman.
The statement, however, did not make any mention of its crew or cargo.
The IRGC reiterated its claim that the US wished to steal its oil, “but the operation of the navy force of the terrorist US army was foiled” after the group’s elite forces boarded the ship.
The IRGC seized the ship on October 24 after its troops boarded it in a heliborne operation where they later had a clash with US Navy vessels and aircraft, but warned them off and returned the ship to Iranian shores.
Iran asserted that the US attempted to seize its oil in an effort to enforce its unilateral sanctions imposed in 2018 after abandoning Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
But the US denied the claim, saying its forces were only there to monitor the situation and had made no effort to “steal” the Iranian oil.
On Wednesday, the IRGC held a ceremony to laud its members that took part in the “epic” operation to seize the Sothys, and Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami said the “unforgettable” day will go down in history.
“This major victory was very limited and small in terms of geography and scale, but had a huge impact in terms of its scope of humiliating the enemy,” he said.
During the ceremony, IRGC commander Alireza Tangsiri made a reference to dramatic footage of the incident that was aired by Iranian state television, and said the US is lying that its forces were only there to monitor the situation.
“The American ships were less than 30 meters [98.4 feet] away from our vessels and forces,” he said.
“If they only wanted to monitor then they could do it from longer distances or even use aircraft and drones,” he added.
Iran held a large-scale military drill east of the Strait of Hormuz and in the Sea of Oman earlier this week.
The incident comes as Iran and world powers will head to Vienna on November 29 to resume talks to restore the nuclear deal, which will likely lead to the lifting of US sanctions on Tehran.