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Wasn’t the US going to stop Iran’s tankers from delivering oil to Venezuela?

PortandTerminal.com, May 25, 2020

Video from the cockpit of a Venezuelan Air Force Su-30 overflying the Iranian tanker ‘Forest’ was released today as it makes its way to deliver Venezuela with much-needed fuel.

WASHINGTON – Did we not get the memo? Wasn’t the US going to block the five Iranian tankers on their way to Venezuela with $46 million worth of oil and gasoline? What changed?

Despite US warnings, the first of five Iranian tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela in violation of US sanctions reached Caracas unimpeded. Others are on their way.

Last week the White House was certainly talking tough on Iran’s imminent tanker delivery of much-needed oil to Venezuela. A senior official in President Trump’s administration told Reuters last Thursday the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

While no one in Washington specified what “measures” were being contemplated, it was enough of a threat to prompt the Iranian Foreign Ministry to issue a swift warning that any US military action against its ships would result in “a quick and decisive response.”

And then after that…nothing. Crickets. The first of the five tankers arrived safely on Sunday night. Venezuelan Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami thanked Iran on Monday for sending fuel, additives, and spare parts to increase fuel distribution and boost refinery output. “We are fortunate to be able to count on Iran in these times,” he said.

Venezuelan PDVSA workers (in red) welcoming Iranian tanker crew
Venezuelan PDVSA workers (in red) welcoming Iranian Fortune tanker crew

Today we’ve been treated to footage of Venezuelan Air Force fighter jets flying overhead another of the Iranian tankers making its way to deliver Venezuela its oil. Still no word from Washington though.

“A Smack in Face for Trump”

The Iranian oil tanker Fortune off the coast of Venezuela next to a military vessel

In Israel’s Hayom newspaper, the largest in the country and a staunch American ally, the headline today reads “A smack in the face for Trump’: Iranians celebrate Venezuela fuel delivery”.

The Israeli newspaper goes on to note that an additional four oil tankers have already embarked from Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port for Caracas. One of them appears to have entered Venezuelan territorial waters. “The US government has not yet addressed these shipments” the paper notes.

Tankers are headed for Caracas. Will the U.S. give them a pass?

Wall Street Journal, “Iran’s Gasoline for Maduro” May 20, 2020

Certainly, if the US did move upon the remaining three vessels outside of Venezuelan waters it would almost certainly provoke a dangerous response from the Iranians – likely some action in the Gulf of Hormuz. But that risk would have already been taken into account before the US issued its warning to Iran last week.

So for now, it’s wait and see what President Trump will do. The US recently beefed up its naval presence in the Caribbean for what it said was an expanded anti-drug operation. Could they be there to greet the remaining Iranian tankers instead?

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