Gibraltar Slams Door On US Warrant Demanding Iranian Tanker Hand Over

After a seizure warrant filed by the US Department of Justice was unsealed in a US district court late Friday authorizing US law enforcement to detain the supertanker Grace 1, since renamed the Adrian Darya, and its 2 million barrels of Iranian oil on board, Washington renewed its request to Gibraltar authorities demanding it impede the tanker's release and hand it over to the US. 

Gibraltar has now rejected the formal US request for the second time in under a week, just as the ship is set to sail into the Mediterranean from the place of its over month-long captivity Sunday evening. 

A media statement by Gibraltar, which is a British overseas territory, indicated the US request was not in accord with EU law, and that this has led “to the differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the EU and the US.” 

Supertanker Grace 1, since renamed the Adrian Darya, now flying the Iranian flag. Image source: Reuters

"The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US," the statement elaborated.

The US warrant alleged “a scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” according to a DoJ statement.

The seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint alleges the now Iranian-flagged tanker along with its over two million barrels of oil aboard it and $995,000 “are subject to forfeiture,” citing terrorism forfeiture statutes, and bank fraud and money laundering.

But now the real million dollar question remains: will Tehran defiantly send the Adrian Darya on ahead to Syria?

Though Iranian officials have from the beginning claimed that Syria was not the tanker's ultimate destination, it's a move that's not completely out of the question, given Iran's growing boldness over the summer in capturing tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, including the still IRGC-detained British-flagged Stena Impero.

Given Tehran has been waging its own, relatively successful "counter-pressure" campaign in response to the White House's own "maximum pressure" (also given Assad and Russia have the complete upper-hand in Syria), Iran could very well play this provocative card.