UNITED NATIONS — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tuesday that anyone who “touches,” supports or allows an Iranian tanker carrying crude oil to dock risks US sanctions.
He told reporters that if an Iranian supertanker that left Gibraltar on Sunday again heads to Syria, “we’ll take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.”
The Iranian vessel was detained for a month for allegedly attempting to violate European Union sanctions on Syria. Gibraltar authorities rejected US attempts to seize the tanker.
Pompeo said the US doesn’t want crude oil to go to Syria because it will be “off-loaded, sold, used by the Quds force, an organization that has killed countless Americans and people all across the world.”
He was referring to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, which the US recently declared a terror organization.
The Revolutionary Guards were formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.
The Revolutionary Guards have amassed strong power within Iran, including with significant economic interests.
Pompeo said he believes this rationale “is shared by the entire world.”
After leaving Gibraltar, the boat appeared to be heading for Greece.
Athens has received no request from the recently released Iranian tanker Adrian Darya to dock in Greece, Merchant Marine Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said Tuesday, after a maritime tracker gave the ship’s “reported destination” as the Greek port of Kalamata.
“There is officially no request concerning the arrival of the Iranian tanker in a Greek port,” Plakiotakis told Greek media.
The website Marine Traffic placed the supertanker carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the Algerian port of Oran.
Gibraltar seized the Grace 1 on July 4 on suspicion it was transporting oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions, triggering a sharp deterioration in relations between Tehran and London. Iran has repeatedly denied any violations.
Its Supreme Court ordered the tanker released last Thursday, with Iranian officials saying a new crew had arrived to pilot the vessel — now renamed the Adrian Darya — and its 2.1 million barrels of oil.
But on Friday, the US Justice Department filed a last-minute request to detain the ship, alleging it was involved in supporting illicit shipments to Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, listed as a terrorist group by Washington.
Gibraltar’s government rejected that request, saying it could not seek a court order to detain the supertanker because US sanctions against Iran were not applicable in the European Union.
Iranian government officials have yet to publicly acknowledge the ship’s next destination, or where it will discharge its cargo of crude oil. Iran has denied it was ever headed for Syria.
The tanker’s release comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago. The decision re-imposed sanctions on Iran, stopping billions of dollars in business deals, largely halting the sale of Iran’s crude oil internationally and sharply depreciating Iran’s currency, the rial.
The US Department of State reiterated its position Monday that the Adrian Darya 1 was “transporting illicit oil to fuel the Iranian regime’s and Syrian regime’s campaigns of terror and oppression,” and it said that companies and mariners who assist it could be considered to be providing material support to a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
“We have conveyed our strong position to the Greek government on the matter, as well as all ports in the Mediterranean that should be forewarned about facilitating this vessel,” it said.