Two of the countries that have been the subject of rigorous sanctions from the United States are now working together. As Iran ships fuel to Venezuela, the US is reportedly looking for ways to intervene, which could signal a new conflict amid increased tensions…
Both Iran and Venezuela have been hit with extensive sanctions by the US over the last year, which have severely limited their oil sales and hurt their economies. But now the US may also move to try to prevent the two countries from working with each other.
In response to reports that Iran is in the process of shipping oil to Venezuela, an anonymous senior US official was quoted as saying, “It is not only unwelcome by the United States but it’s unwelcome by the region, and we’re looking at measures that can be taken.”
One of those measures could be deploying US Navy ships to the Caribbean Sea in an effort to prevent five Iranian tankers that are currently en route with more than $45 million dollars’ worth of gasoline and supplies, from reaching Venezuela’s ports.
Iran’s foreign minister submitted a complaint to the United Nations on Sunday, warning that any attempts to disrupt the transfer of oil to Venezuela would be seen as “illegal and a form of piracy.” And the US would be responsible for the consequences.
A spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry doubled down, arguing that the US cannot dictate the placement of Iran’s oil tankers around the world.
“What Americans stated regarding our oil tankers in various locations around the world is illegal and shameless. If they make any move against this free and legitimate sailing of our ships, they will definitely face reaction by the Islamic republic of Iran,” said Abbas Mousavi.
These warnings also come as Iran’s Supreme Leader renewed calls for US troops to withdraw from Iraq and Syria – even stressing that if American troops do not leave, they would be expelled.
Now, it is it not clear exactly how the plan to expel US troops would be carried out, but Iran has argued that any presence it has in the countries was requested by their governments, as opposed to the US, which has maintained its presence through force.
After pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal in May 2018, the Trump Administration has continued to implement crippling sanctions, even as other countries have called for the US to show mercy in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak that has led to around 7,000 deaths in Iran.
As for Venezuela, the Trump Administration has spent the last year working to overthrow elected President Nicolas Maduro, by putting their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido.
While the sanctions have been aimed at creating an uprising among the Venezuelan people, they have left thousands impoverished and in need of food and medical supplies, while creating very little support for Guaido.
Now the economic sanctions on Venezuela – one of the largest oil reserves in the world – has also resulted in gas shortages. That’s because the South American country is unable to refine its own crude. This is where Iran comes in – willing to bring in much needed chemicals for those refineries.
Washington has worked to cut off Venezuela and Iran from working with both the US, and any of its allies. But now it remains to be seen how far the US will go to prevent the two countries from working with each other.