Iranian fuel tankers approach Venezuelan waters despite US warning

Clay Curtis
May 24, 2020

One of the tankers is expected to be in nearby waters by this weekend.

The remarks come after The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying on Wednesday that the Trump administration is considering new sanctions and "other legal steps to disrupt Iranian oil exports to Venezuela", in response to what Washington sees as Tehran's attempts "to make inroads into Latin America".

He said that if the U.S. "does not like a country, this does not give it any grounds to prevent legal trade among countries, [take them under] sanctions, and cause trouble for them".

"So I will put it very, very clearly on the record that this Government will be doing absolutely nothing to facilitate in any way the passage of any Iranian flag ships carrying petroleum products to Venezuela". He said the next ship was about 3 1/2 days behind the lead tanker.

The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had advised that the provision of support or services to these vessels may create sanctions enforcement exposure. The four other vessels are following the same route across the Atlantic Ocean, Reuters reported.

The Express understands that the Port Authority, law enforcement and other authorities will have to be instructed to ensure any port access is denied to the Iranian tankers.

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"But by no means do we initiate escalation of tensions and conflict", he clarified. "It will not stop Venezuela's chronic fuel shortages or alleviate the suffering that Maduro has inflicted on the once prosperous people of his country".

- Babak Taghvaee - Μπάπακ Τακβαίε - بابک تقوایی (B) (@BabakTaghvaee1) May 23, 2020Today we alerted the UN Security Council and Secretary General Antonio Guterres of the threat of imminent use of military force by the United States against Iranian vessels carrying Venezuelan-directed gasoline.

A BBC report on Thursday stated the Venezuelan military will escort Iranian tankers delivering much-needed petrol to the country to prevent any attempt by the U.S. to stop them.

Venezuela's defense minister said its military will escort the Iranian tankers once they reach the nation's exclusive economic zone, 370 kilometers (230 miles) from the shore. But a Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said on Thursday he was not aware of any operations related to the Iranian cargoes.

The US recently beefed up its naval presence in the Caribbean for what it said was an expanded anti-drug operation. Venezuelan officials paint them as a threat, but U.S. officials have not announced any plans to intercept the Iranian tankers. An act of war under worldwide law.

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