The seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the latest example of how tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled into one of the world's most strategic and vital waterways for oil. Since May, Iran has been accused of harassing and attacking oil tankers in the strait.

As the British government continues to investigate Friday's seizure, experts worry that it raises the potential of a military clash. However, they also say it offers a lens into Iran's strategy toward the U.S.

Here is a look at what's been happening and why the Strait of Hormuz matters.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.

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Getty Images/AFP/Jim Watson

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KCNA/Associated Press

After a months-long pause in its intercontinental ballistic missile tests, North Korea on Nov. 28 conducted the maiden launch of the Hwasong 15 — an ICBM that state media characterized as the rogue nation’s “most powerful” missile yet, topped with a "super-large heavy warhead” and capable of striking the mainland United States. 

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Wikimedia Commons

Since the Cold War, the US and Russia have drawn up plans on how to best wage nuclear war against each other — but while large population centers with huge cultural impact may seem like obvious choices, a smarter nuclear attack would focus on countering the enemy's nuclear forces.

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