|Hours after the British territory of Gibraltar released an Iranian oil tanker it seized over alleged sanctions violations, the United States fired back by revoking US visas from the crew members—adding to the current tensions between Washington and Tehran.|
The State Department is claiming that according to assessments made by the US, the crew members on board the oil tanker seized by Gibraltar were assisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard by illegally transporting oil to Syria.
The Trump administration made the unprecedented move of designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization back in April.
The State Department said, “Crew members of vessels assisting the IRGC by transporting oil from Iran may be ineligible for visas or admission to the United States” based on the grounds that they are being accused of terrorism.
Now, it’s not clear exactly how these crew members were directly threatening the United States, but we do know that US officials have strongly criticized the possibility of the tanker being released back to Iran, and so this seems to be one of the few things they can do in response.
The chief minister of Gibraltar is now speaking out, and he claims the tanker was only released because he received a written guarantee from Iran that its cargo would not be delivered to a country that has been sanctioned by the European Union.
|“So anybody who thinks that somehow we have related our decision in Gibraltar to a decision to hijack a tanker somewhere else is entirely wrong,” said Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar. “We make an independent decision in keeping with the law. And if you doubt that, just look at what our law says. Our law says that we must stop anybody who is trying to act in breach of European Union sanctions.”|
Now, it’s important to note that in the days after the Iranian tanker was seized by Gibraltar, Iran then seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. So there is hope that Iran will respond by also releasing the tanker it seized.
Iran’s foreign minister spoke out and he accused the US of trying to abuse the legal system in order to influence the seizure of Iran’s property.
He also took to Twitter, where he argued that the detention of the oil tanker was illegal; that Iran made repeated public statements about its destination; and that EU sanctions do not apply to Iran, which he claimed is a position shared by most Europeans.
Now, the tanker was released at a time when the US was filing a bid to seize control of the ship. So there is concern that even though this move by the British territory may help relations between the UK and Iran, it could serve to increase tensions with the United States, because US officials who were hoping to use the seizure to increase pressure on Iran did not get what they wanted.