Iran is watching every enemy ship in the Gulf, the head of the Iranian navy boasted today, in a thinly-veiled threat that Tehran's Revolutionary Guards could strike again against Western shipping.
Tehran's 'world-leading' drones are following 'all enemy ships, particularly America' and taking pictures 'point-by-point from their origin until the moment they enter the region', rear admiral Hossein Khanzadi claimed.
'We have complete images and a large archive of the daily and moment-by-moment traffic of the coalition forces and America,' he said.
Iran has already captured one UK tanker, the Stena Impero, in a dramatic seizure last Friday - declared illegal and condemned as an 'act of state piracy' by Britain - which has sent Middle East tensions spiralling once again.
Iran yesterday paraded the ship's crew to the world as Britain pledged to defend its shipping with a European-led 'maritime protection mission'.
Britain and the U.S. have both beefed up their military presence in the region but today Iran's defence minister Amir Hatami told Iranian media that 'the Islamic Republic has the will and power to respond to any threat'.
Stuck in a political crisis: An aerial photo of the idling British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard last week
Captured: Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at Bandar Abbas port on Friday after being seized by Iran
Through the looking glass: The cockpit of the idling British tanker is seen on Sunday. Iran has warned it is watching every 'enemy' ship that passes through the Gulf
Armed guard: Two members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard inspect the captured British tanker in a picture taken on Sunday
Captured: Iran yesterday paraded the crew of the Stena Impero oil tanker, which sails under a British flag, after its Revolutionary Guards captured the vessel on Friday
Rear admiral Khanzadi revealed that Iran's navy is acquiring new 'intercontinental drones' to monitor the oceans, as he made his sinister promise to watch Western ships.
'We have this type of drones and we will certainly use them if necessary. These drones are being used in the vast region of the Indian Ocean now,' he said.
The technology to track shipping may not be groundbreaking, but Iran is making the boast in a warning to the West just days after seizing one vessel.
One Iranian general claimed that Iran is 'even ahead of the top world powers in the drones sector and we are way ahead of them'.
The Iran crisis will be the first job for Britain's new Prime Minister to deal with when they replace Theresa May in Downing Street tomorrow.
Boris Johnson is expected to be confirmed as the winner of the leadership election today and Iran has already taken a shot across his bows.
'It's important for everybody to realize, it's important for Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation,' Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
Zarif repeated Iran's earlier claim that the Impero had only been seized for flouting maritime laws after supposedly hitting a fishing boat and switching off its distress signal .
But Iran has itself contradicted that claim, making clear on Saturday that the capture of the Impero was retaliation for a British Royal Marine operation on July 4 in which an Iranian tanker was impounded off Gibraltar.
'The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law,' said Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, at the weekend.
The Stena Impero was surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces at 4pm and ordered to head north on Friday. A second British-managed vessel, Mesdar, abruptly changed course towards Iran
Flashpoint: The Stena Impero, the UK-flagged tanker at the centre of the latest Middle East tensions, is seen at a heavily guarded Iranian port
A top British representative to the UN has rejected Iran's version of events, accusing Tehran of 'illegal interference' and saying there was no evidence of a collision.
UK authorities intercepted the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on July 4, saying it carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria.
Britain says the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, was seized because it was headed for Syria in violation of EU sanctions - not because it was Iranian.
London also denies Iran's claims that the Grace 1 was captured on American orders.
Yesterday, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt - Mr Johnson's rival for the Conservative leadership - said the capture was an 'act of state piracy'.
Speaking in Parliament he called the capture a 'flagrant breach of the principle of free navigation on which the global trading system and world economy ultimately depends'.
Under international law, Iran had 'no right to obstruct the ship's passage, let alone board her', Mr Hunt said, adding that Britain 'does not seek confrontation with Iran'.
Other images showed the crew - which included 18 Indians, three Russian, and Latvian and a Filipino - laughing and smiling. Tehran has previously said that the crew are well and are being looked after
Chefs are also shown preparing food in the tanker's kitchen in an attempt by Iranian authorities to prove that the crew are not being badly treated
Iran's state-affiliated Fars news agency released the first image inside the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker on Monday, showing part of the 23-strong crew sitting cross-legged on the floor under the watch of a Revolutionary Guardsman while their shoes sit piled up nearby
A third image shows the Imepero being watched over by an armed Iranian vessel at the port of Bandar Abbas, where it is being held after it was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday last week
'There is simply no comparison between Iran's illegal seizure of a vessel inside a recognised shipping lane, where the Stena Impero had every right to be, and the enforcement of EU sanctions against a tanker that had freely navigated into the waters of a British overseas territory,' he said.
'If Iran continues on this dangerous path, they must accept the price will be a larger Western military presence in the waters along their coastline.'
Urging Iran to release the Impero, he proposed a 'European-led maritime protection mission' to protect Middle East shipping.
The European-led force would not be part of America's 'maximum pressure' campaign as Britain still wants to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Mr Hunt said.
Outgoing PM Theresa May chaired a meeting of the government's