by Elena Apostolou
Cyprus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continuing its diplomatic efforts for the release of a Cypriot captain, a member of the crew of one of two Greek oil tankers recently seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in the Gulf.
The Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Demetris Demetriou, told CNA that the Cypriot captain of the ship "Prudent Warrior" is in good health, and the Ministry has maintained contact with his wife since the incident started.
According to the timeline of events, members of Iran's revolutionary Guard landed by helicopter on the two Greek tankers "Delta Poseidon" and "Prudent Warrior" on May 27th after it was seen sailing in international waters near the coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Guards took control of the ships and are holding the crew hostage until today. Two speedboats were also used in the operation.
There are 29 sailors being held hostage, among them 9 Greeks and a Cypriot captain.
The Greek tankers were seized in retaliation for an incident that occurred a few days before in Karystos when a Russian ship carrying a huge cargo of Iranian oil was seized in accordance with the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the EU. The ship is currently being detained in Evia.
Iranian authorities are demanding the release of the tanker "Lana" and its cargo through the International Maritime Organization.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard was founded in 1979 when the religious leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, called on the overthrow of the Shah.
The Guards were established to protect the political system of the Islamic Republic and at the same time prevent foreign interventions and coups by the army or "divergent movements".
It is said that the Revolutionary Guard has more than 150,000 active members in its ranks and maintains its own ground, air and naval forces.
Despite having about 300,000 fewer troops than the national army, the IRGC is considered the dominant military force in Iran and is behind many of the country's major military operations.
They are a major military, political and economic power in Iran, with enormous influence. International analysts point out that they control 1/3 of the Iranian economy, having gradually developed a huge business network.
They own automobiles, banks, influence the war industry, oil and gas companies, and eye laser clinics.
The organization wields considerable influence in the Middle East, providing funding, equipment and technology to other armed forces through its shadow overseas operational arm, the Kunds Force, led by the assassinated Kassel Suleimani.
The IRGC Navy regularly patrols the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, a strait that connects the Gulf with the Indian Ocean, through which 20% of the world's oil supply passes.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been designated a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
They are also accused of activities that move into the realm of illegality. They have been charged with smuggling alcoholic beverages, cars, cigarettes and basic necessities of Western origin.
[With information from CNA]