PortandTerminal.com, August 14, 2020
Now the question is, how will Iran respond?
NEW YORK – The Wall Street Journal and other major news sources are reporting that the United States has seized the cargo of four tankers it was targeting for transporting Iranian fuel to Venezuela. The announcement was made on Thursday by U.S. officials.
Last month U.S. federal prosecutors filed suit to seize the four tankers of gasoline that Iran was sending to Venezuela, the latest move in the administration’s effort to stifle flows of goods and money helping to keep two of its top foes in power.
At the time, it was unclear if U.S. authorities would successfully be able to take control of the tankers, after a similar effort to seize Iranian fuel through a U.S. forfeiture case was unsuccessful last year.
A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press that no military force was used in the seizures and that the ships weren’t physically confiscated. Rather, U.S. officials threatened ship owners, insurers and captains with sanction to force them to hand over their cargo, which now becomes U.S. property, the official said.
The four vessels—Luna, Pandi, Bering and Bella—were seized at sea in recent days and are now en route to Houston, the officials said. Senior administration officials are expected to meet the tankers in the coming days at an event scheduled to mark the docking, the officials said. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment.
Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela has denied media reports that the US has seized Venezuela-bound oil tankers belonging to the Islamic Republic.
In a post on his Twitter account, Hojjat Soltani described the allegation as a lie and another psychological war launched by the US propaganda machine against Iran.
As commercial traders increasingly shun Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has been increasingly turning to Iran.
In May, Maduro celebrated the arrival of five Iranian tankers delivering badly needed fuel to alleviate shortages that have led to days-long gas lines even in the capital, Caracas, which is normally spared such hardships.
This latest escalation in tensions between Iran and the United States comes just a day after Iranian Naval forces boarded a Liberian-flagged tanker, the MT WILA, in the Gulf of Oman.
Dryad suggests that the MT WILA may have been targeted as a result of its previous links to Greek companies that were sanctioned by the US DoJ in June for their intended involvement in an Iranian Oil Shipment to Venezuela.
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