US sanctions five Iranian ship captains who delivered oil to Venezuela: Pompeo

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The US is sanctioning five Iranian ship captains who delivered about 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline to Venezuela “in support of the illegitimate Maduro regime,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.

“These captains assets with be blocked and they won’t be able to operate with US waters,” he added.

“Mariners who are considering work with Iran and Venezuela should understand that aiding these oppressive regimes is simply not worth the risk,” the State Department said in a press release.

Earlier this month an Iranian news agency close to the elite Revolutionary Guards reported that Iran’s naval forces were preparing to target US commercial vessels in the Gulf last month in case US forces interfered with Venezuela-bound Iranian oil tankers.

Aerial view of Iranian tanker named ‘Fortune’ arriving at Venezuela coast. (Reuters)
Aerial view of Iranian tanker named ‘Fortune’ arriving at Venezuela coast. (Reuters)

Iran sent a flotilla of five tankers of fuel to gasoline-starved ally Venezuela in May, and Tehran has said it will continue the shipments if Caracas requests more, despite Washington’s criticism of the trade between the two nations, which are both under US sanctions.

“According to reports received by Noor News, after increasing military threats against Iranian vessels headed for Venezuela, an order was issued to Iran’s armed forces to identify and track several US merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” Noor News said on its website.

“Options for reciprocal action were immediately identified and monitored for possible operations,” the agency added.

Iran complained to the United Nations last month and summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who represents US interests in the Islamic Republic, over possible measures Washington could take against the Iranian tankers.

Tension between Washington and Tehran has escalated since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions targeting particularly its vital oil industry.

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