Defying U.S. Threats of Seizure:
LONDON (Dispatches) -- The first of a group of three tankers carrying Iranian fuel for gasoline-starved Venezuela entered the waters of the South American country on Monday, according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data.
Iran-flagged tanker Forest, transporting some 270,000 barrels of fuel loaded in the Middle East, entered Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone around 8:05 a.m. local time (1205 GMT) without any disturbances, according to the data cited by Reuters.
Two Iranian tankers following the same route, the Faxon and the Fortune, are crossing the Atlantic Ocean with estimated dates of arrival in early October.
The three vessels are expected to jointly deliver about 820,000 barrels of gasoline and other motor fuels to Venezuela, where lines of drivers waiting for fuel in front of gas stations have lengthened in recent weeks due to lack of domestic fuel output.
Even though both countries are under tough U.S. sanctions, Washington has not moved to intercept the Iranian vessels, which made a previous fuel delivery to Venezuela between May and June. The United States in July claimed to have seized a separate group of Iranian cargoes bound for Venezuela, but Iran strongly denied the allegation.
The OPEC-member nations have tightened bilateral trade this year by exchanging crude, fuel, food, equipment for refineries and other industrial goods.
An Iranian very large crude carrier (VLCC) is expected to depart this week from Venezuela’s Jose port to export 1.9 million barrels of Venezuelan heavy oil for Iran’s national oil company.
Venezuela’s oil industry is hobbled by U.S. sanctions which have thrown the country - owner of the world’s largest oil reserves - into its worst economic crisis in years.
And with most shipowners and oil traders shunning business with Venezuela for fear of the sanctions, Iran has emerged as the only country helping Caracas bring its refineries back to service and cope with an acute fuel shortage.
Washington has sought to disrupt the deepening bilateral trade between the two countries.
Last month, the U.S. government went on a full-throttle propaganda campaign, claiming that it had seized 1.116 million barrels of Iranian fuel because it was bound for Venezuela.
Iran, however, asserted that neither the ships were Iranian nor their owners or their cargo had any connection to the Islamic Republic. A legal challenge put up by the owners of the cargoes in the U.S. early this month showed Iran was right.
United Arab Emirates-based Mobin International Limited said it was the owner of the cargo aboard the Bella and Bering tankers, UK-registered Oman Fuel said it owned the cargo aboard the Pandi and Luna tankers, and Oman-registered Sohar Fuel said it part-owned the cargo aboard the Luna.
The arrival of the Iranian-flagged VLCC carrying Iran’s condensate to be used as diluent for Venezuela’s extra heavy oil production and its loading of Venezuelan crude further wrong-footed the U.S. on its claim that it had found a way to stop the shipments.
In June, Iran also sent a cargo of food to Venezuela to supply the South American nation’s first Iranian supermarket.
Covering an area of 20,000 square meters, the store is selling more than 2,500 Iranian items including foodstuff, clothing, detergents, plastic, disposable products, nuts, and even tractors.
The store ushered in a new era of cooperation between Caracas and Tehran, hailed by political observers as a step in breaking the paradigm of U.S. power to subjugate sovereign countries.
Leading American magazine Foreign Policy said this month that the U.S. "maximum pressure has not destroyed the Iranian economy, and Tehran is now sharing its lessons in resilience” with the beleaguered Venezuelan government.
Since Iran came under broad economic sanctions in the mid-2000s, Iranian policymakers have repeatedly asserted that the country would respond by adopting a "resistance economy” which would aim to reduce dependency on imports and Western investment.
"The simple fact that Iran, which has faced a broad campaign of sanctions for more than a decade, has recently come to the aid of Venezuela, which has been under concerted sanctions pressure for only a few years, suggests a remarkable degree of economic resilience. When comparing the two economies, the most salient question is not whether Iran will become like Venezuela, but rather whether Venezuela will become more like Iran,” the U.S. publication said.
Foreign Policy touched on Iran’s economy in the aftermath of the U.S. sanctions, including in the year leading up to March 2020, during which it generated $41.3 billion of export revenue from nonoil goods. Around half of this total was from manufactured goods, it noted.
In the same period, Iran’s oil exports totaled just $9 billion, marking a historic moment in its modern economic history where the country’s industrial sector, which employs around one-third of the labor force, earned double the export revenue generated by the country’s oil sector.
"Remarkably, Iran managed to grow nonoil exports during a period in which it was subject to U.S. secondary sanctions for all but two years. One of the major consequences of sanctions pressure, the steep devaluation of the rial, actually served to make Iranian exports more competitive abroad,” it said.
The development of the Iranian private sector in the first decade of the millennium—encompassing improvements in the quality and efficiency of manufacturing as well as the capture of local market share—led to a larger number of manufacturing firms eyeing export potential, the magazine said.
From March 2019 to March 2020, China was the top destination for nonoil exports, with Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Afghanistan rounding out the top five destinations, it added.
Former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Yahya Rahim Safavi said on Sunday Iran has obtained gold from Caracas in return for the fuel loads it sent to Venezuela.
Safavi, currently a senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, explained that the gold was transferred to Tehran by "airplanes to prevent any accident during transit”.
"Iran seeks to transfer its war experience with Iraq [1980-1988] to the countries countering the United States,” Safavi told reporters, referring to Venezuela.
Tehran, Safavi added, is providing consultations to Venezuela on "building popular mobilization forces and preventing cyberattacks.”