The United States claimed on Thursday, August 13, that it had seized four tankers carrying Iranian oil to Venezuela. The seizure announcement was part of the intensification of US aggression against both Iran and Venezuela, two nations reeling under unilateral sanctions by the US. However, Iran has contested the US claims of seizure, with the Iranian ambassador to Venezuela stating that the claim is an attempt at “psychological warfare” by the US.
Ambassador Hojat Soltani in a tweet stated that the claim of seizure is “(a)nother lie and psychological warfare from the propaganda machine of imperialism. The ships are not Iranian and their owner or flag has nothing to do with Iran. Trump, the terrorist cannot compensate for his humiliation and defeat against the great nation of Iran with false propaganda.”
يك دروغ و جنگ رواني ديگر از دستگاه تبليغاتي امپرياليسم #امريكا.
نه كشتي ها ايراني هستند و نه مالك يا پرچم انها ارتباطي به #ايران دارد.#ترامپ تروريست نمي تواند حقارت و شكست خود در برابر ملت بزرگ ايران را با تبليغات دروغين جبران كند. pic.twitter.com/JnGqKBZm74
— Hojat Soltani (@soltanihojjat) August 13, 2020
The four ships allegedly seized by the US are named Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna. These ships were targeted by federal prosecutors in the US with a civil forfeiture case filed in Washington DC, on July 2. Prosecutors claimed that the ships are carrying petrol cargo of 1.2 million tonnes.
The prosecutors, representing the Donald Trump administration, claimed that the supposed oil shipment was arranged by a UK-based businessman, with alleged ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC, Iran’s foremost paramilitary force, was deemed a “terrorist” organization by the Trump administration last year.
US authorities told Associated Press that the ships are yet to be physically confiscated and their whereabouts are yet to be ascertained. But federal authorities have stated that the owners, captains and insurers of the ships will be asked to hand over the ships, which has been deemed US property, or will face sanctions.
At the time when the civil forfeiture case was filed by US prosecutors, the Iranian government denied involvement with either of the targeted ships or the new oil cargo that was supposedly being dispatched.
Nevertheless, in recent months Iran transported over a million tonnes of petrol, as well as food supplies to open a supermarket chain in Venezuela. Iran had also publicly promised to keep providing a steady supply of petrol and food supplies to Venezuela. The increasing trade relations between the two nations have been the subjects of brutal US sanctions has angered the Trump administration.