US Seizes Iranian Fuel Headed for Venezuela
(UnitedVoice.com) – Despite owning some of the largest oil reserves in the world, the socialist country of Venezuela is dependent on Iran to supply its devastated economy with gasoline. Both countries are under crushing sanctions from the United States.
On Thursday, US officials announced the US government peacefully seized four Iranian ships loaded with fuel headed for Venezuela as part of a maximum pressure campaign against the two countries.
The Luna, Pandi, Bering, and Bella are en route to Houston.
Venezuela desperately needs gas to alleviate severe shortages. Across the socialist country, long lines of cars wait to fill their tanks, and people are becoming restless over the government’s inability to supply the nation’s energy demands.
Since the Trump administration implemented sanctions a few years ago, Venezuela’s crude production has dived to its lowest level in 70 years. The result is an economic crisis resulting in an internal threat against Venezuelan socialist President Nicolás Maduro that has forced him to crack down on his people.
In January’s State of the Union speech, President Trump praised Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, and said the United States recognized him as Venezuela’s rightful president, not Maduro.
Iran has few suitors for its oil and gas, and its exports have dropped dramatically. Prior to the crippling US sanctions earlier this year, Iran was exporting approximately 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. In April, it’s estimated it was selling only 70,000 barrels.
Iran needs someone to buy their fuel to prop up its ailing economy and Venezuela is the perfect suitor and ally since both are targets of the United States.
The challenge for both countries is that commercial shippers are refusing to haul fuel for Iran. The US is applying extreme pressure on the tanking industry, insurance companies that insure the industry, and firms that supply shipping licenses. As a result, reputable companies don’t want to take on the liability or risk of being put out of business.
Iran Tries to Skirt Sanctions
In a civil-forfeiture complaint filed by US prosecutors in Washington DC, a federal judge ruled enough evidence was presented that the fuel onboard the four ships were assets of a designated terror organization.
The lawsuit alleges an Iranian businessman who is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arranged the fuel deliveries. He was using a network of companies that looked legitimate to avoid detection.
The administration hopes the enforcement of the sanctions will deter companies from supplying any oil or energy products to or from Iran and Venezuela, and deprive both countries of revenues and energy.
However, that’s not deterring the two countries from future dealings. Leaders in Iran and Venezuela say they are determined to schedule more shipments.
While the seizure of the four ships was peaceful this time, there are no guarantees future seizures will be in the future as the stakes rise.
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