Five Iranian Oil Tankers to Shake Up “US Sphere of Influence”Zahra Tohidian
Iran oil tankers are arriving in Venezuela one by one; the Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel are carrying 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and refining components for the country hit by US sanctions.
Venezuela sits on the world’s biggest oil reserves and was once a major oil producer. But lack of investment and US sanctions as well as local mismanagement have destroyed the industry. Its oil refineries are so run down that some believe none produce gasoline.
According to the Ney Yok Times, the oil crisis in Venezuela has become so acute in recent weeks that people are spending days in line at gas stations — or walking miles to work. Doctors have said they cannot get to work, and women in labor have reported excruciating delays in getting to hospitals. And yet, Iran is the only country to dare risking oil shipment to its old friend.
The load may seem to not be a breakthrough to save Caracas from its current crisis; however, Iran is also helping the Maduro government to repair its own refineries so it can use its domestic heavy crude oil to make petrol. Media reported that Iranian engineers have flown on direct flights from Tehran to a major refinery complex on the Venezuelan coast.
What matters most is that the ships come to the Caribbean at a time when the US military has a large presence there. President Trump sent warships to the area to stop what he claims to be “cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors.” The force includes destroyers and surveillance aircraft.
And many say Iran has taken this risk to come into what is traditionally thought of as the US sphere of influence. It seems that Tehran wants to send a message: it cannot be bullied by Washington anymore, especially after strongly retaliating against the US military bases, following the unlawful killings of General Qassem Soleimani.
The oil shipment highlighted the increasingly parallel economic and political goals of both Iran and Venezuela, as well as the US government’s increasingly limited options to obstruct Iran’s policies. Both Caracas and Tehran are eager to punch back at the Trump administration for the brutal and inhumane sanctions.
The arrival of the ships has revived memories of last year’s incident in the Mediterranean when British Marines seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar, claiming it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of an EU embargo. The Iranians retaliated by impounding a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf.
Zahra Tohidian is the Editor-in-Chief of Parsi Policy. She is a peace activists and a member of Association of Peace Reporters.