Further aggravating the situation, the US has seized Iran’s fuel shipments to Venezuela, alleging that Tehran defied US sanctions.
Four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, were Seized by US disrupting a key supply line for both Tehran and Caracas.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Iran should not be sending cargoes to Venezuela and added that the seized shipments were bound for Houston, Texas, and suggested they may have already arrived.
“They’re going to Houston. And, they’re there,” Trump told a White House news conference according to Reuters. “We’re moving them, and moved, to Houston.”
The U.S. Justice Department said the seized cargo was now in U.S. custody “with the assistance of foreign partners,” adding that the amount confiscated from four tankers was about 1.116 million barrels of fuel, making it the largest-ever U.S. seizure of Iranian fuel.
The U.S. State Department credited its outgoing special envoy for Iran for the seizure operation.
“Our diplomacy, led by Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, was able to both halt these shipments and assist the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security in executing a U.S. seizure order,” it said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal reported late on Friday that U.S. threats of legal action and sanctions forced Greek ship owners to surrender Iranian fuel to the U.S. government in recent days.
The report, which cited people familiar with the confiscation, said that the operation took place in international waters without the physical presence of any U.S. authorities or the assistance of any foreign government.
Venezuela had already paid for the fuel and hence Iran will not lose any revenue from the confiscation, the newspaper reported.
In July 2019, Hook had sent emails to the captain of a British-flagged oil tanker that was briefly seized by Iran in the Gulf, saying the Trump administration was offering him several million dollars to steer the tanker to a country that would impound it on behalf of Washington. (With inputs from Reuters)