US authorities have seized Iranian oil from four tankers that were en route to Venezuela, the first action of its kind, and the latest escalation of American-led sanctions pressure on maritime trade.
The Department of Justice announced on August 14 it had confiscated more than 1.1 million barrels of fuel it says was being shipped to Venezuela by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – an elite military unit in Iran that is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US government.
The raid is the latest in a series of US sanctions efforts linked to maritime trade – a trend that has accelerated since the publication of a landmark advisory in May by the country’s sanctions regulator – and the government says that policy is starting to bear fruit.
“We are seeing more and more global shipping fleets avoiding the Iran-Venezuela trade due to our sanctions implementation and enforcement efforts,” says Morgan Ortagus, a spokesperson for the US State Department. escalates
“The United States remains committed to our maximum pressure campaigns against the Iranian and Maduro regimes.”
Though Venezuela sits on vast oil reserves, it no longer has any functioning refineries and so has become reliant on importing petroleum. In Iran, whose oil exports are subject to the US’ fearsome sanctions regime, it has a willing seller.