Iran Sends Another Oil Tanker to Syria in Defiance of Sanctions

A picture taken on March 12, 2017, shows an Iranian tanker and a South Korean (R) tanker docking at the platform of the oil facility in the Khark Island, on the shore of the Gulf. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty

Western intelligence sources told Fox News on Tuesday that Iran has dispatched another oil tanker to Syria in defiance of U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, the first sanctions-busting ship was leased to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in another apparent gesture of defiance to the United States.

The new tanker headed for Syria, the Bonita Queen, is much smaller than the supertanker currently named Adrian Darya 1, intercepted en route to Syria on July 4 and recently released from impound by the government of Gibraltar. According to Fox News, the Bonita Queen plans to illegally transfer oil at sea to a  pair of sanctioned Syrian vessels:

The Bonita Queen loaded 600,000 barrels of crude oil on Aug. 2 near the Iranian coast at Kharg Island.

Shortly after the tanker was de-flagged by the country of St. Kitts and Nevis, fearing retaliatory U.S. sanctions.

The vessel is now headed to Dubai, where it will refuel before beginning a monthslong journey around the horn of Africa, through the Mediterranean and to the shores of Syria.

Sources say the ship plans to meet two Syrian owned oil tankers in the Mediterranean later this year and conduct a ship-to-ship transfer of the crude oil.

This transfer would be an additional violation of American sanctions since the U.S. Treasury Department already sanctioned the two Syrian tankers in March of this year. The tankers, named the Kader and the Jasmine, are both scheduled to meet the Bonita Queen to assist with the transfer.

The owner of the Kader and Jasmine is a man named Mohammed al-Qatirji who was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 for profiting from the savage Syrian civil war. The U.S. Treasury Department said he had ties to the murderous regime of dictator Bashar Assad and assisted with “transporting weapons and ammunition under the pretext of importing and exporting food items.” His company also played a key role in “providing supplies to ISIS-controlled areas, including oil and other commodities.”

Al-Qatirji’s brother, who evidently has some involvement with the oil transfer, was sanctioned by the European Union in January. Gibraltar refused to hold the other Iranian oil tanker, the Adrian Darya 1, at the request of the U.S. government because it was accused of violating American sanctions but not those of the European Union. If the intelligence reports given to Fox News were accurate, the voyage of the Bonita Queen will violate both American and European laws.

The Adrian Darya 1 is currently headed for Greece and is expected to arrive early next week. Iranian state media announced on Wedensday that the ship has been leased to the IRGC, a contention the U.S. made to Gibraltar authorities when asking for the ship to be kept in custody.

American officials contended the IRGC used a network of front companies to manage the ship, but Iran’s ILNA news agency casually referred to it as “a Korean-made oil tanker owned by Russia which is currently leased to the Revolutionary Guards” during an interview with IRGC naval commander Gen. Alireza Tangsiri.

Tangsiri defiantly declared the vessel “needs no escort” to protect it from seizure by the United States. Iran on Monday warned the U.S. will face “heavy consequences” if it takes action against the Adrian Darya 1.

The supertanker was named Grace 1 when it was seized by British Royal Marines in July, but its name was changed to Adrian Darya 1 when it was released by Gibraltar. The National explained on Tuesday that the name change was not one of the many techniques Iran uses to conduct illegal business – it was chosen as another gesture of defiance to the West. 

The name translates to “Adrian Sea,” which was meant as a reference to Hadrian’s Wall, a barrier built by the Romans to keep the British at bay in the 2nd Century. In other words, Iran renamed the tanker to honor “a wall that protected Iran’s interests against Britain” in celebration of Iran’s “victory over the West” by getting the ship released from impound, as Iranian media put it.

Gibraltar officials claim they were given assurances by Iran that the Adrian Darya 1 would not unload its oil in Syria. According to Greek officials, it won’t be unloading that oil in Greece, either. Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said on Monday the supertanker is too big to enter any Greek port, but it could conceivably anchor offshore, at which point Athens would have to decide whether to allow it to purchase maintenance services.

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