On May 23, 2020, the first of five tankers carrying Iranian fuel and oil products entered Venezuelan waters.
Tareck El AISSAMI, the Venezuelan oil minister wrote on Twitter after the arrival of the first tanker: “The ships of the sister Islamic Republic of Iran are in our exclusive economic zone”.
According to the shipping tracker TankerTracker, the oil vessel Fortune officially entered Venezuela’s Exclusive Economic Zone at about 7:30 pm local time on Saturday.
The fleet is carrying about 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and arrives amid tensions between Iran and the US, which has imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports and Iran.
The Iranian embassy in Venezuela wrote on Twitter: “The first Iranian tanker reached the Venezuelan coasts”. “Grateful to the Bolivarian Armed Forces for escorting them”.
The government of President Nicolas MADURO had pledged the military would escort the tankers once they reached the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The other Iranian ships – the Forest, Petunia, Faxon, and Clavel – are expected to arrive in the coming days.
The shipments have caused a diplomatic standoff between the US, Iran, and Venezuela. The US has imposed tough sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, both of which it says are ruled by repressive regimes. Washington was reportedly considering measures in response.
Brian HOOK, the US special representative for Iran said: “This (the shipment) would be an example of how the Iranian regime taking the wealth of the Iranian people and wasting in Venezuela on MADURO”.
The US recently beefed up its naval presence in the Caribbean for what it said was an expanded anti-drug operation. Jonathan HOFFMAN, the Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday he was not aware of any operations related to the Iranian vessels.
Mohammad MARANDI, a professor at the University of Tehran said to Al Jazeera: “What is important is that these are trade ties between two sovereign countries, and the regime in Washington is in no position to dictate terms to the international community”.
“Iran is not a weak country like countries within the EU that bow down to the United States when it makes it mad. Sending five ships is a big message – it wasn’t just one or two – so the Iranians did that both to give support to the Venezuelan people to prevent them from suffering, and also in an act of defiance to the US hegemony”.
Venezuela is in a political crisis for more than a year, with the US and more than 50 other countries recognizing opposition leader Juan GUAIDO as the country’s rightful leader and accusing MADURO of rigging elections in 2018.
Hassan ROUHANI, the Iranian President, had warned on Saturday the US against disrupting the shipments as the oil tankers passed through the Caribbean Sea on their way to Venezuela.
In a phone call with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al THANI, ROUHANI said: “If the Americans cause problems for our oil tankers in the Caribbean Sea, we will also cause problems for them”.
ROUHANI said that his country did not want a new conflict with the US but Iran would reserve the right to defend its interests.
The fuel from Iran comes at a time when the shortage of gasoline in Venezuela, chronic for years in some parts of the country, has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela has faced fuel shortages due to a complete breakdown of the nation’s refining network over the last two decades. The experts say that this situation is the result of failed policies, lack of investment, and corruption.
This article was edited using the data from the Aljazeera.com, Dw.com, Bbc.com, and English.alaraby.co.uk.
Source of the photo: www.aljazeera.com.