U.S. Warns Greece Against Allowing Iranian Oil Tanker to Dock

An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on August 18, 2019. - Gibraltar rejected a US demand to seize the Iranian oil tanker at the centre of a diplomatic dispute as it prepared to leave the …
JOHNNY BUGEJA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. State Department on Monday warned Greece not to allow the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 to dock because the ship is carrying “illicit oil to fuel the Iranian regime’s and Syrian regime’s campaigns of terror and oppression.” Greek officials insisted they have not received a request from the tanker for docking, even though its destination appears to be the Greek port of Kalamata.

The Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, is the Iranian ship impounded by Gibraltar on the Fourth of July due to suspicions it was smuggling 2.1 million barrels of oil to Syria in defiance of European Union sanctions. The ship was released by Gibraltar on Sunday after a request by the U.S. Justice Department to hold it for violating U.S. sanctions was denied. 

According to the Greek shipping ministry and international ship trackers, the Adrian Darya 1 began “cruising at low speed” toward Kalamata after it was released. At its current speed, it is expected to arrive on August 26. The Iranian government on Monday threatened “heavy consequences” if the U.S. attempts to seize the vessel en route.

The State Department said on Monday it has “conveyed our strong position to the Greek government” and “all ports in the Mediterranean” that they should not provide services to the Adrian Darya 1 because doing so may be regarded as “providing material support to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization,” specifically Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Iranian government is not discussing the tanker’s itinerary because the United States “illegally tries to bully others from purchasing our oil.” 

Zarif also repeated the Iranian regime’s insistence that Gibraltar’s initial seizure of the tanker was illegal, while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Gibraltar’s decision to release the Iranian ship was “very unfortunate.”

“If they are successful [at selling the tanker’s oil] they will have more money, more wealth, more resources to continue their terror campaign, to continue their assassination campaign.  This is what we’re trying to stop,” said Pompeo.

Reuters on Tuesday judged the tanker’s fate will be “a major foreign policy test for Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a pro-western conservative elected in July.” Greek officials indicated they are well aware of the U.S. position and are in contact with Washington.

“It was unclear where the ship might head if Greece refused it permission to dock. Cyprus, further east, has bitter experience from seizing Iranian products destined for Syria; munitions it confiscated exploded in 2011, causing the island’s worst peace-time disaster,” Reuters noted.

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