The United States of America and Islamic Republic of Iran are now facing another possible confrontation, but this time in the Western Hemisphere. Five Iranian super-tankers likely carrying nearly $50,000,000 of crude products are now sailing in the Atlantic Ocean towards Venezuela in defiance of to US sanctions. The US has made it displeasure known, with one official saying the shipment was, "not only unwelcome by the United States, but also unwelcome by the region."
The five super-tankers were dispatched to Venezuela after Nicolás Maduro pleaded for Iran to help restore an aging refinery amid a gasoline shortage in the divided nation. According to leaks from US Intelligence agencies, Tehran will receive nearly nine tons of gold as payment for delivering gasoline to Venezuela.
The vessels have made no attempts to hide their final location. After loading gasoline and other crude products from the Persian Gulf Star Refinery in Bandar Abbas, Iran, the ships transited the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the final vessel, the Clavel, successfully passed through Gibraltar and entered the Atlantic Ocean. Upon entering the Atlantic, each ship changed their final location on their Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) as, "S. America to Order." However, the final location of the vessels is almost guaranteed, as they seem to be on shipping routes that lead directly to Venezuela. Lastly, it seems any other South American country would even consider taking Iranian gasoline, especially given the overwhelming US sanctions imposed on Iran.
The United States seems publicly resolved to halt the shipments, even if it means seizing super-tankers. The western state certainly has the force posture required to execute such an action, as the US Navy and US Coast Guard have multiple destroyers and cutters deployed to the Caribbean Sea for a counter-narcotics operation.
However, any action must be weighed with the Iranian response in mind. The Nour News Agency, a state-backed media outlet largely seen as a mouthpiece for the Revolutionary Guard Corps, noted on May 17, "if the US intends to create insecurity on international waterways, it would be taking a dangerous risk and that will certainly not go without repercussion."
Furthermore, on May 18, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif informed the UN Secretary-General that Iran, "reserves its right to take all appropriate and necessary measures and decisive action ... to secure its legitimate rights and interests against such bullying policies and unlawful practices."
The two nations conflicting objectives seem destined to spark a conflict, although the extent of such a confrontation remains unknown.
The Intelligence Ledger will continue to report on this developing story. Check back for more updates.