Friday, June 21, 2024

Tanker believed to hold Iran oil begins to be offloaded despite Tehran threats

An American-owned oil tanker long suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil began offloading its cargo near Texas late Saturday, tracking data shows. Tehran has previously warned against any move to discharge the cargo.

Ship-tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Marshall Islands-flagged Suez Rajan was undergoing a ship-to-ship transfer of its oil to another tanker, the Mr Euphrates, near Galveston, Texas, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Houston. That likely will allow the cargo to be offloaded.

The fate of the cargo aboard the Suez Rajan has become mired in the wider tensions between the US and Iran, even as Tehran and Washington work toward a trade of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets in South Korea for the release of five Iranian-Americans held in Tehran.

Already, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that those involved in offloading the cargo “should expect to be struck back.”

The US Navy has increased its presence steadily in recent weeks in the Mideast, deploying the troop-and-aircraft-carrying USS Bataan and considering putting armed personnel on commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran from seizing additional ships.

Iran has repeatedly condemned the US for “warmongering” and escalating tensions with its regular military deployments in the region.

In recent months, Iranian naval forces have impounded several ships off the country’s southern coast for their breaches of shipping safety law, with the US claiming that the moves are “illegal” and “endanger” shipping safety.

Tehran dismisses the claims as baseless, stressing the vessel seizures are in fact meant to consolidate the maritime law.

In mid-July, Iran urged the United States to refrain from any “provocative” moves in the region, especially close to the country’s borders, stressing that Tehran reserves the right to take “deterrent measures” under international law.

Speaking during a weekly press conference, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said that the US government’s role regarding the issue of regional security has never been peaceful and constructive.

“Iran monitors with sensitivity and accuracy any illegal and unconstructive act that affects the security of the region, and it will … pay special attention to any provocative and illegal moves, especially near its borders,” he added.

Kanaani also warned that the Islamic Republic will use its “inalienable rights” in response to the US moves.

Iran “reserves the right to take due deterrent measures under international law, rules and regulations given the capability of its Armed Forces in protecting the security of borders, as well as that of navigation and aviation in the Persian Gulf region,” he stressed.

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