PORT OF SPAIN — An Iranian news agency close to the elite Revolutionary Guards said today that there would be repercussions if the United States acted “just like pirates” against an Iranian fuel shipment to Venezuela.
A senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters on Thursday the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.
The oil sectors of Iran and Venezuela, members of OPEC, are both under U.S. sanctions. The Trump administration official declined to specify the measures being weighed but said options would be presented to Trump.
“If the United States, just like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international waterways, it would be taking a dangerous risk and that will certainly not go without repercussion,” Iran’s Nour news agency said.
At least one tanker carrying fuel loaded at an Iranian port has set sail for Venezuela, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon on Wednesday, which could help ease an acute scarcity of gasoline in the South American country.
“Venezuela and Iran are both independent states that have had and will continue to have trade relations with each other,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei was quoted as saying by the YJC news website, linked to Iran’s state broadcaster.
Meanwhile, an Iranian report said that the U.S. Navy has sent its P8-Poseidon patrol aircraft from the VP-26 Tridents as well as four warships to the Caribbean region for possible encounter with the group of Iranian super-tankers moving fuel to Venezuela.
The Fars News Agency claimed in a report today that the U.S. Navy has deployed its USS Detroit (LCS-7), USS Lassen (DDG-82), USS Preble (DDG-88), and USS Farragut (DDG-99) to the region along with P8-Poseidon.
The report quoted its military and political analysts as saying that any encounter with the Iranian tankers will likely spark a reaction that may bolster Trump’s campaign in the coming November elections with his popularity currently sagging because of COVID-19 deaths in America.
Reports of a shipment of Iranian fuel to Venezuela in the face of U.S.sanctions against the two allies have infuriated the United States, with one official threatening to take “measures” against the “unwelcome” development.
The Iran-flagged tanker Clavel sailed for the South American country, the Reuters news agency reported.
“We sell goods and buy goods in return,” Rabiei said. “This trade has nothing to do with anyone else. We have to sell our oil and we have ways to do it.”
The vessel tracking data from analyst Refinitiv Eikon suggests the tanker loaded fuel at Bandar Abbas port in Iran at the end of March, and sailed through the Suez Canal and entered the Atlantic on Wednesday.
The senior official in Washington said he has a “high degree of certainty” that the Venezuelan government is paying Iran in gold for the fuel.
Separately, a hardline Iranian analyst suggested Iran may retaliate against U.S. vessels in the Gulf if the United States takes action against the Iranian tanker.
“The U.S. Navy and its allies in the Persian Gulf are hostages to any kind of violation against Iran’s legal international shipping,” Mahdi Mohammadi said on Twitter.
“Before coming to any decision, Trump should ask his friend (British Prime Minister) Boris Johnson about the details of the British tanker experience,” he said.
Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf last year after British forces detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. Both vessels were released after a months-long standoff.