Iran Condemns 'Blatant Piracy' As US Seizes Oil Tanker, Dealing Blow to Nuclear Deal Chances- Report

© Sputnik ScreenshotIranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh at a regular press conference on January 25, 2022
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh at a regular press conference on January 25, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.05.2022
Washington’s latest maritime seizure comes as US leaders impose more sanctions on Iran and are increasingly downplaying the possibility of a return to the JCPOA deal from which the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018.
The US has seized a shipment of Iranian oil being carried by a Russian-owned tanker, according to an article published Thursday by Reuters. A source at the Greek shipping ministry claimed that the oil was “transferred to another ship that was hired by the U.S.” after the US Department of Justice “informed Greece that the cargo on the vessel is Iranian oil.”
Neither US nor Greek authorities have commented on the matter publicly, but according to ship-tracking services, the Greek-owned tanker Ice Energy has been stationed alongside the Russian-owned Lana since Monday, and shipping journal Lloyd’s List reports the former initiated “a ship-to-ship transfer” on Monday afternoon.
According to Reuters, a source within Dynacom–the company whose tanker the US reportedly charted–confirmed that the "transfer of the oil was underway from the vessel to Dynacom's Ice Energy, which will then sail to the United States".
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on September 22, 2019 shows President Hassan Rouhani (C) and other top military commanders watching members the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) marching past during the annual Sacred Defence Week military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran. - Rouhani said on September 22 that the presence of foreign forces creates insecurity in the Gulf, after the US ordered the deployment of more troops to the region. Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region, Rouhani said in a televised speech at the annual military parade, adding that Iran would present to the UN a regional cooperation plan for peace. (Photo by Iranian Presidency / AFP) - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.05.2022
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On Wednesday, Greece’s Charge d’Affaires was reportedly summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to account for the incident and convey Iran’s outrage. The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), an official Iranian outlet, noted that the Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Mediterranean Department “told the Greek diplomat that the seizure of the ship is an example of international banditry” and condemned the “unacceptable” move to "surrender to US illegal pressures."
It’s unclear whether Washington is invoking its unilateral anti-Iran sanctions or anti-Russia sanctions to justify its latest seizure of another country’s energy exports. The ship in question, the Lana, was detained by Greek authorities acting on US orders in response to anti-Russia sanctions in April, but questions remain about the official US rationale, given the lack of official statement by those responsible and the timing of the newest raft of American sanctions.
On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the latest anti-Iran sanctions, which target the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, demonstrate “ill will” on the part of the US. In an unprecedented move against the military of another country, the US branded the IRGC a “terrorist organization” in 2019, and has used the designation to justify its seizure of Iranian oil ever since.
The designation is considered to be the last major sticking point in indirect negotiations between Iran and the US over the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal. On Wednesday, Robert Malley, the official US special envoy to Iran, seemed to throw cold water on the possibility of reaching a consensus with Iran, describing the odds of the agreement being revived as “tenuous at best.”
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The Lana was reportedly stranded in Greek waters after a rash of bad weather and a slew of technical issues left the tanker inoperable and it was forced to anchor at the Karistos port. However, Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization reports that the ship and its crew “received no help” from Greek authorities. On the contrary, “its cargo was discharged,” which the IRNA noted Wednesday “is a blatant act of piracy.”
The US has repeatedly leaned on its unilateral sanctions against adversarial governments to rationalize the seizure of their goods. In 2021, the US seized approximately 2 million barrels of Iranian oil from a ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and the spoils were reportedly sold for a tidy sum of $110 million–another considerable haul, especially when combined with the 1.16 million barrels the US took by force from Iran in 2020. Such actions have been repeatedly denounced as “piracy” by both international observers and the targeted nations.
The seizures have done little to curb growing cooperation between Iran and Russia. Amid Washington’s aggressive enforcement of sanctions against both states, the countries reportedly signed three new cooperation agreements on Wednesday, including a memorandum of understanding on “sharing technical know-how and knowledge-based cooperation in the area of petrochemical industries equipment.” Per the IRNA, both Iranian Petroleum Minister Javad Owji and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak stressed the need for expansion of trade relations during their meeting.
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