The first among five Iranian fuel-laden tankers has arrived in gasoline-starved Venezuela amid US threats to intervene against the 'sanctions-busting' activity by two official Washington enemies.
Reuters reports: "The tanker, named Fortune, reached the country’s waters at around 7:40 p.m. local time (1140 GMT) after passing north of the neighboring dual-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon."
Maduro's economy vice president and recently named oil minister celebrated on Twitter: “The ships from the fraternal Islamic Republic of Iran are now in our exclusive economic zone,” amid broader claims of 'victory' on state media.
And per Reuters: "Venezuelan state television showed images of a navy ship and aircraft preparing to meet it."
The other trailing tankers are also expected to enter Venezuela's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or within 200 miles of the coast, in the coming days.
Venezuela’s Yekuaka PO13 Ocean Patroller rendezvoused with the 1st Iranian tanker “Fortune” at 3pm on Saturday in international waters. This was the moment captured by @madeleintlSUR. pic.twitter.com/tQWWIh505t— Camila (@camilateleSUR) May 24, 2020
Iran's IRGC-aligned Tasnim media hailed the safe arrival of the first tanker as “A turning point for Venezuela’s sovereignty and independence,” according to a state media report.
Over the past month Tehran and Caracas have become aggressively vocal in touting their "brotherhood" and joint defiance of Trump administration sanctions, for which US officials have recently threatened response, including the possibility of military intervention against the vessels in the Caribbean. Trump months ago reportedly ordered more Navy ships to the area to crackdown against what was dubbed the Maduro regime's alleged narcotrafficking.
Iran-Venezuela cooperation has also included stepped-up flights from Iran via sanctioned Mahan Air, which has lately delivered crucial supplies to bring some of Venezuela's derelict refining plants back online, amid a national gas shortage.
"Today we see the fruits of the multipolar world" - Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza https://t.co/Tc1DB3hk6o— Intel Dispatches (@inteldispatches) May 23, 2020
But as The Jerusalem Post underscores, the saga is far from over, but may have just begun:
There are still chances for the US to make trouble for Iran’s tanker fleet. More ships will arrive in the coming days and then they have to go back to Iran. The port they came from was sabotaged by a cyber attack recently. US media pointed the finger at Israel for that incident. It’s unclear what the ships will do next. Furthermore, Venezuela is holding two Americans it accuses of being part of an ill-planned coup.
Maduro officials days issued an emergency notice to the United Nations of what they called an illegal "threat of imminent use of military force by the United States."
Venezuelan naval patrol boats set out to meet the first oil tanker arriving from Iran as it enters Venezuelan territorial waters. Exclusive @teleSURtv images from @madeleintlSUR, courtesy @rolandoteleSUR pic.twitter.com/MqOxenX6G8— Camila (@camilateleSUR) May 23, 2020
Simultaneously, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani put Washington on notice that his armed forces can create "trouble" - no doubt a reference to ability to choke key Persian Gulf transit points - should their be any attempt to thwart the tankers' movement.
“If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, they [the United States] will also be in trouble,” Rouhani told the Emir of Qatar in a phone call, Tasnim News reported earlier.