By Pooya Stone
The US has warned that Iran has sent a second oil tanker to Syria in clear defiance of US and EU sanctions.
Intelligence sources told Fox News that the Bonita Queen oil tanker was loaded with 600,000 barrels of crude oil near Iran’s Kharg Island on August 2. Shortly after that, the tanker was de-flagged by the country of St. Kitts and Nevis, fearing US sanctions.
It is supposedly headed towards Dubai, where it will refuel before leaving on its journey to Syria, which will go around the horn of Africa and through the Mediterranean. In Syrian waters, the ship will meet two Syrian owned oil tankers and conduct a ship-to-ship transfer of the crude oil.
This news comes just days after Gibraltar released the Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker, despite the US’s attempt to detain the vessel with a warrant for the tanker and its $1 million worth of oil. The Gibraltan Government said that it was unable to comply with the request because EU sanctions against Iran are “much narrower” than the US’s.
This earned the UK a condemnation from Donald Trump over the handling of the situation, but he said that Iran was now willing to talk to the US.
Iran renamed the Grace 1 supertanker as the Adrian Darya 1, with crewmembers allegedly writing the name on the ship.
Jalil Eslami, deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, said: “At the owner’s request, the Grace 1 will depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Islamic Republic of Iran’s flag and renamed as Adrian Darya for the voyage. The 25-member crew will start their journey after preparations, including refuelling. The ship was of Russian origin and Panama-flagged and is carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil.”
The Adrian Darya 1, which was captured by British Royal Marines last month for supposedly heading to Syria with oil in violation of EU sanctions on Syria, has not yet left the Mediterranean or given a date when they will have.
Following Britain’s seizure of the Grace 1, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) captured the British-flagged Stena Impero in July, which then-Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described as completely “illegal” and raising “very serious questions” about the safety of ships in the region.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that the Stena Impero had “committed two to three nautical violations”, which the UK blasted as untrue and certainly seems unlikely.
Despite the release of the Grace 1, Iran is still holding the Stena Impero.