Iran has called out US sanctions against the captains of five Iranian oil tankers that shipped fuel to Venezuela in defiance of US bans, warning that the move would see both Tehran and Caracas continue defying Washington’s sanctions targeting the nations.
"US desperate moves against Iranian individuals - like the one announced by @SecPompeo aka the #SecretaryofHate – just signal the miserable failure of the so-called ‘max pressure’", Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted, continuing that irrespective of the US pressure, Iran and Venezuela will “remain steadfast in countering unlawful American sanctions".
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday announced the sanctioning of five Iranian captains who delivered about 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline and related components to Venezuela in May, as well as warned mariners at large against doing business with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose ouster Washington has been seeking since the 2018 national election.
“As a result of today’s sanctions, these captains’ assets will be blocked. Their careers and prospects will suffer from this designation", Pompeo said in a statement.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, for his part, described the new sanctions as “an outburst of arrogance” and “more evidence of the Trump hawks’ hatred of all Venezuelans".
Following the mid-May shipment, reports emerged that the White House was weighing military action to cut off trade between Iran and Venezuela, which have both been severely hit by US-imposed economic limitations, and Iran ostensibly summoned the Swiss ambassador to lodge a protest against the plans.
The theory didn’t play out though, and all five vessels eventually arrived without issue, although the US later moved to turn away two Liberian-flagged vessels carrying Iranian energy supplies to Venezuela by threatening further sanctions.
“The sanctions would be imposed through the Treasury Department and are intended to avoid a US military confrontation with the countries", Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The Trump administration has warned governments around the world against making fuel shipments to Venezuela and providing port services to Venezuela-bound ships. It has also alerted ship owners, captains, and insurance companies as well as ports scattered between Iran and Venezuela, such as Gibraltar.
Meanwhile, Iran and Venezuela have praised the May deliveries as a massive display of power and indicated their resolution to go ahead with shipments if necessary, as Venezuela has relied on Iranian fuel supplies since the US cut off other trading partners with sanctions and threats. Iran in particular voiced plans to carry out regular shipments of fuel to Venezuela in defiance of Washington's threats.