U.S. Seizes More Than 1 Million Barrels Of Iranian Petroleum From Tankers
The U. S. Has seized more than a 1,000,000 barrels of Iranian fuel aboard four tankers that we're heading to Venezuela. The Justice Department called it the largest ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran and said it was because the tankers were in violation of sanctions. The move is part of the Trump administration's campaign of maximum pressure on Iran. NPR's Jackie Northam has been following the story and joins us now. Hi, Jackie. Hi, Sarah. So what can you tell us about what happened with these ships? Right where the seizure of these for Greek own ships happened earlier this week, and the Justice Department says the order to seize and confiscate the cargo was issued by a U. S District court and that the US along with the assistance of foreign Partners confiscated the cargo on board and this was done by a ship to ship transfer of the fuel. You know, it's a little uncertain what type of fuel there talking about. It could be bunker fuel, which is used for heavy machinery, and I like Or just plain old gasoline. Either way, it was bound for Venezuela, and now it's believed to be bound for the U. S. And the Justice Department says the proceeds from its sale will go toward the fund for victims of state sponsored terrorism. And where those four tankers now are. They also on their way to the U. S. Well, it's unclear right now. The four tankers turned off their location. Transponder is more than three months ago, so we don't know where they are. At the moment. If the U. S has the ships they could be brought back here to the U. S and sold at auction. They could have been handed back to the Greek shipowner. We don't know. I talked to a couple of analyst today, including shipping analysts, and this action is really just seen as part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to put pressure on Iran by going after shipping companies. That are carrying Iranian fuel or oil, or even the insurance companies that they use and threatening to sanction them. If they deal with the Iranians, you know. For the past few years, the administration has been heavily sanctioning Iranian in Venezuelan, for that matter, companies and individuals and this is just a different route to apply pressure on the regime. And what is Iran's saying about this? Well. Iran's ambassador to Venezuela rejected the US justification for this seizure and confiscation as fake news, and he called it another lie and psychological warfare by US propaganda machine and said that the tanker's have nothing to do with Iran. The fact is, Iran really needs the money from its oil sales. They've been hit very hard by the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign, which will sanction any country dealing with Iran. So any sales that it makes have to be kept quiet. And you know, even though this is a seizure of just over a 1,000,000 barrels, it's a shot by the US directly towards Tehran. And we're hearing about the seizure. Just today. After the U. S. Announced it had brokered an agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. They're going to establish full diplomatic relations. That new friendship is seen as being driven by their mutual dislike for Iran. So Iran maybe feeling more isolated. Now, Jackie is Iran expected to retaliate for the seizure of its ships. Battleground, has vowed to resist US attempts to isolated and could certainly see these events as a really challenge and feel it may need to stand up for itself using whatever is available for them to respond. You know it might try to seize vessels of its own if you be called just over a year ago, Iran seized a British oil tanker and it's 23 crew members in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for British forces detaining on Iranian tanker in Gibraltar also last year, is believed Iran was using Mine's to attack ships in the Persian Gulf and you know, the U. S says already In the last few days, Iranian forces boarded a ship trying to take the petroleum on board but wasn't successful.