Tankers carrying Iranian fuel approach the Caribbean

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 23, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Saturday of retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington caused problems for tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported.

In a statement posted on his website, Hassan Rouhani said the United States had created "unacceptable conditions" in different parts of the world, but that Iran would "by no means" be the one to initiate conflict.

Iran is supplying about 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela. Washington is considering measures in response, according to a senior U.S. official, who did not elaborate on any options being weighed.

The United States recently beefed up its naval presence in the Caribbean for what it said was an expanded anti-drug operation.

Venezuela's defence minister said the military will escort the tankers once they reach the nation's exclusive economic zone.

The US has targeted Caracas and Tehran with crippling sanctions, while maintaining a presence in worldwide waters near both countries.

Amid economic collapse, Venezuela has been relying on Iran to prop up its oil industry by giving the Islamic Republic tons of gold bars, thereby depleting the South American country's gold vaults, reported Bloomberg late last month, citing sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Earlier this week, Iran's Foreign Ministry pledged a "decisive response" to possible U.S. attempts to intercept Iranian tankers that are now en route to Venezuela with a cargo of fuel.

Venezuela, an oil-rich country has lost nearly all of its refining capacity because of political and economic turmoil.

This followed Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warning late last week that the U.S. may "suffer repercussions that arise out of any unthinking measure [that it could take]" against Venezuelan-bound Iranian fuel tankers.

Tehran also blamed Washington for trying to destroy the Venezuelan economy and topple Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, suggesting that Iran-related allegations were made only to serve as a pretext for new sanctions against both countries.

Fuel sales at stations declined to about 40,000 bpd due to rationing, according to independent calculations.

Over a decade of mismanagement and lack of staff, combined with US sanctions that since 2019 have limited imports, Venezuela's refineries are in poor condition.

The five Iranian tankers now on the high seas are expected to start arriving in Venezuela in the coming days.

US President Donald Trump imposed heavy sanctions on Iran after he withdrew the US from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

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