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Tensions have reached boiling point after a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration warned the US was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela. The oil sectors of Iran and Venezuela, members of OPEC, are both under US sanctions.
The Trump administration official declined to specify the measures being weighed but said options would be presented to the president.
Hitting back at the US warning, Iran’s Nour news agency said: “If the United States, just like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international waterways, it would be taking a dangerous risk and that will certainly not go without repercussion.”
At least one tanker carrying fuel loaded at an Iranian port has set sail for Venezuela, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon on Wednesday, which could help ease an acute scarcity of gasoline in the South American country.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said: “Venezuela and Iran are both independent states that have had and will continue to have trade relations with each other.
“We sell goods and buy goods in return. This trade has nothing to do with anyone else,” according to the YJC news website, linked to Iran’s state broadcaster.
The Iran-flagged medium tanker Clavel passed the Suez Canal on Wednesday after loading fuel at the end of March at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, according to the data.
Nour news agency said: “News received from informed sources indicate that the US Navy has sent four warships and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the VP-26 squadron to the Caribbean region.”
Venezuela is in desperate need of gasoline and other refined fuel products to keep the country functioning amid an economic collapse under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela produces crude oil but its infrastructure has been crippled during the economic crisis.
A Venezuelan official said last month that Venezuela had received refining materials via plane from Iran to help it start a unit at the 310,000 barrel-per-day Cardon refinery, which is necessary to produce gasoline.
Meanwhile, a hardline Iranian analyst suggested Iran may retaliate against US vessels in the Gulf if the US takes action against the Iranian tanker.
Mahdi Mohammadi said on Twitter. “The US Navy and its allies in the Persian Gulf are hostages to any kind of violation against Iran’s legal international shipping.
“Before coming to any decision, Trump should ask his friend Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the details of the British tanker experience.”
Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf last year after British forces detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. Both vessels were released after a months-long standoff.
The news comes after Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani launched a blistering attack on the US and branded the Trump administration the “most evil” in history.
President Rouhani went on a scathing rant against the White House after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Tehran of trying to “foment terror” during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Tensions between Iran and the US have been strained throughout the past two years and ever since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal in 2018.
In January this year, the two nations were on the brink of triggering a world war after US forces assassinated Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani during a missile attack in Iraq
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr Rouhani reignited the feud between the two world superpowers by again condemning the killing of the former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards general Soleimani
The 71-year-old said: “The worst and most evil government that the United States has had is at work.
“What government do you know which assassinates our military commander during a mission?”
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