By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) Iran is warning the United States not to interfere with a reflagged oil tanker as it mulls a naval escort for the vessel which is carrying some 2.1 million barrels of oil.
It’s not clear where the ship, Grace 1, now renamed the Adrian Darya and flying the Iranian flag, is headed but the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iranian oil make it increasingly risky for Tehran to attempt to offload it.
On Monday Iran’s foreign ministry issued new warnings to the U.S. not to mount any new attempt to seize the tanker.
â€œIf this is done or even stated, it is a threat to free shipping,â€ aÂ spokesman said. â€œThrough its official channels, and especially the Swiss embassy, Iran has warned U.S. officials not to make the mistake of doing so, as they face bad consequences.
….and there she goes! After 46 days in Gibraltar Waters sparking an international incident with Iran, the Adrian Darya, formerly the Grace 1, is leaving… pic.twitter.com/IdxWFgVBwm
— GBC News (@GBCNewsroom) August 18, 2019
In addition, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, while attending diplomatic meetings thatÂ Iran cannot beÂ â€œvery transparentâ€ about the tanker’s destination due to American sanctions.
He noted further that the U.S. is tryingÂ â€œbully others from purchasing our oilâ€ but expressed hope a Gibraltar court’s release of the tanker would serve to deescalate tensions, according toÂ Bloomberg.
According to a senior Greek merchant marine ministry official quoted in The Wall Street Journal, â€œWeâ€™ve been informed of the shipâ€™s possible call in Kalamata, but itâ€™s not there yet and we donâ€™t know whether or when it will arrive. There have been no instructions by the foreign ministry or any other government authority to hold the tanker or take any other action so far.â€
Over the weekend, Iranian officials publicly floated the notion of sending an armed naval escort with the tanker, but that’s not likely to happen, according to reports.
A top naval commander was cited inÂ semi-officialÂ Mehr news agencyÂ as saying,Â â€œWe have no intention of sending a flotilla to Gibraltar, but we are ready to do so to escort the Grace 1 back to Iranâ€™s territorial waters.â€
Some analysts believe the tanker could be headed to Syria, despite Iran’s public denials that’s where the ship is headed. But given Iran’s increasingly bold actions in seizing tankers over the summer, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
If that were to happen, it’s not clear how the Trump administration would respond. Congressionally, the president would face stiff opposition from Democrats and even some Republicans who do not want to escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf.
But doing nothing would further embolden Tehran.
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