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Tanker Wars: Despite US-UK Maneuvering, Iran Delivers Oil to Syria

On September 5th, we learned that an Iranian oil tanker which had been previously held by British authorities in Gibraltar for five weeks – had in fact delivered its cargo to Syria.

Journalist Simon Hooper from Middle East Eye reported last week:

“Two sources told MEE that oil from the Adrian Darya 1, which the UK said was suspected of breaching European Union sanctions against Syria, had been offloaded to a port in the country. One said that 55 percent of the ship’s cargo, previously reported as 2.1 million barrels of oil, had been unloaded by 10.15 pm local time (7.15 pm GMT) on Thursday night. The Adrian Darya 1’s last updated position on shipping tracking websites showed it in the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus and the Syrian coast on Monday afternoon.”

Strangely, there was a delayed reaction from the UK government in issuing a formal statement on the matter – presumably because they’ve been embroiled in Brexit chaos over the past week, but also because of the international embarrassment this news is likely to cause. As a result, the British Foreign Office waited a full five days before even commenting on the controversial tanker situation.

This morning, SKY News finally managed to pry a statement from the foreign secretary on the matter:

The foreign secretary has condemned Iran for a breach of “assurances” after it delivered its oil to Syria using the controversial Grace 1 tanker. Dominic Raab issued a statement after satellite pictures emerged showing the tanker, also called the Adrian Darya 1, approaching a port in Syria.

Interestingly, it was disgraced US national security adviser John Bolton who published a satellite image showing the ship near the port of Tartus, saying, “Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn’t headed to Syria is in denial.” Bolton would be sacked only a few days later.

Back in July, the Iranian oil tanker, previously named, Grace 1,was seized on the orders of Washington in Gibraltar, with British Royal Marines used to capture the vessel in what Tehran called an illegal ‘act of piracy’ by the UK. Its crew who were then illegally held into custody with no charges or evidence of any crime being committed by Iran. The UK claimed that an Iranian fuel deliver to Syria was violating the punitive sanctions embargo on Syria by the EU and the US, according to UK authorities, ‘by delivering Iranian oil to President Assad’s regime.’

Iran responded in-kind, seizing a British-flagged vessel near Iran’s Strait of Hormuz, in what London called an act of “state piracy”.

The Iranian ship was later released after promises from Tehran that the tanker would not deliver its cargo to Syria.

Unfortunately for Washington and London, that didn’t happen. Clearly, with absolutely no real legal (or moral) ground to stand on the US-UK axis was easily out-foxed by Tehran.

In reaction, there was an angry statement from the Foreign Office this morning, saying:

It was “now clear that Iran has breached these assurances and that the oil has been transferred to Syria and Assad’s murderous regime.”

Rather ironically, the UK has demanded that the Iranian ambassador be summoned in order to explain the “unacceptable violation of international norms.”

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab now claims that the sale of essential fuel to the country of Syria (currently unable to obtain basic supplies because of sanctions) is somehow a crime:

“This sale of oil to Assad’s brutal regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security.”

Facing complete defeat on the issue last week, US officials desperately tried to enlist any potential partners with offers of money.

In a press briefing U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Brian Hook said the US would offer a cash reward of $15 million to anyone who had information which could helped to ‘disrupt the financial operations’ of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), accusing it of running an “oil-for-terror network”.

“This includes information that leads to disrupting vessels like the Adrian Darya… This vessel was released by Gibraltar based on guarantees provided by the Iranian Government that it would not deliver its oil to Syria, which is exactly where it appears to be headed now,” said Hook.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted earlier, “Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail – deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself. Sounds very similar to the Oval Office invitation I received a few weeks back. It is becoming a pattern.”

On September 5th, Iran released seven of 23 crew members detained from the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero.

Reports suggest that Iran intends to release the British tanker and its remaining crew members ‘within days’.

READ MORE IRAN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Iran Files




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