Venezuela's military to escort Iranian fuel tankers: defense minister

Clay Curtis
May 23, 2020

"Any disruption for tankers is against worldwide regulations and security", Hatami said on Wednesday referring to the release of some reports on the threat of United States officials to harass tankers carrying Iran's fuel to Venezuela.

The tankers - Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel - are carrying around 1.5 million barrels of fuel, and passed the Suez Canal in the first two weeks of May, Refinitiv Eikon data show. Trump administration officials say Washington is considering a response to the shipment. Five Iranian tankers likely carrying at least $45.5 million worth of gasoline and similar products are now sailing to Venezuela, part of a wider deal between the two USA -sanctioned nations amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, said the need to import petrol highlighted the mismanagement of Venezuela's oil industry by President Nicolás Maduro's government.

Even though it has the world's largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela has had to declare an "energy emergency" in February, to shield its oil industry from "imperialist aggression" in the form of U.S. sanctions. Washington has also sanctioned individual Venezuelans and Iranians. They are expected to arrive between the end of May and early June.

Iran has often expressed its support for the Maduro regime, which also counts on support from Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba.

Five Caribbean countries among 100 to get World Bank aid
The programs will reinforce healthcare systems; and also help procure vital life-saving medical equipment and supplies. The World Bank said last month that it expects people in sub-Saharan Africa to suffer the most.

On Monday, the head of the United States military's Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, said he was following the Iran's shipments to Venezuela "with concern", but played down the possibility of a confrontation.

Zarif added that the U.S. would be responsible for 'the consequences of any illegal measure'.

The US Navy is said to have deployed its USS Detroit (LCS-7), USS Lassen (DDG-82), USS Preble (DDG-88), and USS Farragut (DDG-99) to the Caribbean along with its patrol aircraft Boeing P8-Poseidon for a possible encounter with the Iranian vessels.

In the letter, according to a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry, Zarif Zarif dismissed the "illegal, risky and provocative" threats as a form of "marine piracy" that puts worldwide peace and security at great risk. The US leader had previously threatened Venezuela with a naval blockade.

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