Increasing its pressure on both Iran and Venezuela, the US authorities were successful in seizing 1.1 million barrels of gasoline being transported through four cargo ships to Venezuela. The company that arranged this transfer of fuel is owned by Mahmoud Madanipour, a man with links to the Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran.
The Revolutionary Guard Corps has been declared a terrorist organization by the US government. As a consequence, a civil forfeiture complaint was filed by the US in a court in the national capital of Washington DC. After the court ruled in favor of the plea, the authorities set out to seize the four tankers delivering the fuel.
The Tanker Ships
These four tankers are named Luna, Bering, Bella and Pandi. Their seizure is a big blow for both the countries involved in this exchange. While the Venezuelan government will suffer due to the shortage of fuel in the country, something that has caused great distress to the ordinary people, Iranians will also suffer a loss of business at a time when their opportunities have shrunk considerably due to crippling sanctions by the US and its allies due to the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
As expected, there was great anger on the side of the Iranian government. The most explicit condemnation of the seizure came via the Iranian ambassador to Venezuela, Hojad Soltani, He wrote on Twitter:
"This is another lie and act of psychological warfare perpetrated by the U.S. propaganda machine. The terrorist #Trump cannot compensate for his humiliation and defeat by Iran using false propaganda."
Soltani went one step further by claiming that the ships seized by US authorities neither belong to his country nor are owned by any of its citizens. This is possible as it might have been an attempt to avoid detection by the US ships. However, it failed.
The seizure of the gasoline proved to be a peaceful operation as there was no resistance from the crew on the ships. They handed over the fuel-filled cargo containers without engaging in any kind of hostility. While the fuel now lies with the US government, the location of the four tanker ships is not known due to them having turned off their tracking devices.
The irony of the entire situation is the fact that Venezuela is naturally-blessed with great crude oil. Yet, due to financial strains on the nation, caused mainly by the socialist handling of economy by Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro. With sanctions further crippling the economy, Maduro sought the help of a fellow pariah country.
And help did come in May when five Iranian tankers arrived in Venezuela bringing precious oil with them. This alerted the US to the dangers of letting this trade go on and they have acted. Let's see how Maduro and Xi react to this latest seizure.