US blacklists Iranian tanker Mike Pompeo says is heading to Syria

The US has blacklisted the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya, saying it had “reliable information” it was transporting oil to Syria in defiance of wide-ranging sanctions on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Previously known as Grace 1, the vessel was seized in July by British marines and held in Gibraltar for six weeks, on suspicion it was delivering oil for Tehran’s ally Damascus.

The British territory released the ship – despite US protests – after it said it had received written assurances from Iran that the vessel would not head for countries under European Union sanctions. Tehran later denied it had made any promises.

“We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria,” the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said in a tweet on Friday.

The US Treasury said the vessel was “blocked property” under an anti-terrorist order, and “anyone providing support to the Adrian Darya 1 risks being sanctioned”.

The ship’s captain, Akhilesh Kumar, was blacklisted under the order.

Since its release from Gibraltar, the Adrian Darya has been bouncing around the Mediterranean, its every move followed. The vessel was in waters north of Cyprus as of early Saturday, according to the MarineTraffic website.

Lebanon earlier dismissed Turkish claims that it would receive the ship, which has a cargo of 2.1m barrels worth around $140m.

While Iran has denied selling the oil to Damascus, experts said the likely scenario was for a ship-to-ship transfer, with a Syrian port the final destination.

Maritime traffic monitors had shown that the Adrian Darya’s latest listed destinations, which are not necessarily the next approved port of call, were in Turkey. After tracking sites showed Mersin as its destination, it then switched to Iskenderun, prompting a reaction from Turkey’s foreign minister.

“This tanker is not heading actually to Iskenderun, this tanker is heading to Lebanon,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Oslo.

Lebanon dismissed that scenario, stressing that it never buys crude oil because it does not have refineries, and adding that it had not received any docking requests from the tanker.

Iran said on Monday it had “sold the oil” aboard the tanker and that the owner will decide the destination. It did not identify the buyer or say whether the oil had been sold before or after the tanker’s detention.

It also said it could not name the actual destination due to “economic terrorism” by the US and its sanctions on Iran’s oil sales.

In July, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard impounded a British-flagged tanker in Gulf waters. Britain called it a tit-for-tat move but Tehran denied any connection.

Source: The Guardian