THE Royal Navy is too small to protect British ships from the Iran threat, the Defence Minister warned today.
Tobias Ellwood also threatened to freeze the assets of Iran if the country doesn't release a UK tanker as he called on the next PM to beef up the military.
Britain has been facing down Iran for two weeks after seizing a tanker on its way to deliver oil to Syria.
On Friday, the Islamist regime retaliated by boarding and capturing a UK-flagged tanker, which is still being held.
The Stena Impero was boarded by Iranian troops as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow body of water which is crucial for the world's oil trade.
British authorities are considering new sanctions on Iran if the country's government refuses to release the ship.
The measures could include a freeze on the regime's assets, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Asked if the drastic move was being considered, Defence Minister Mr Ellwood said: "Cobra was taking place yesterday, so we're looking at the operational responsibilities from that but, yes, we are going to be looking at a series of options."
He admitted the Navy is too underpowered to prevent all British ships, saying: "It is impossible simply to escort each individual vessel."
Mr Ellwood added: "If we want to continue playing a role on the international stage – bearing in mind that threats are changing – all happening just beneath the threshold of all-out war, then we must invest more in our defence, including our Royal Navy.
"Our Royal Navy is too small to manage our interests across the globe if that's our future intentions and that's something the next prime minister will need to recognise."
Ministers and military chiefs have discussed sending a nuclear submarine and Marine commandos to bolster Navy defences in the Gulf.
Jeremy Hunt will tomorrow announce a series of measures aimed at convincing Iran to shift course.
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