Iran Prepares to Send More Oil to Venezuela Despite US ‘Threats’
Foreign ministry’s announcement comes after Islamic Republic sent five oil tankers carrying 1.53 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela last week
WASHINGTON (June 1, 2020) — Iran will continue sending fuel shipments to Venezuela despite US sanctions on both countries, the foreign ministry has said.
Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters on Monday that Tehran was prepared to keep its oil supply chain open with Venezuela, a country which, like Iran, has long been in Washington’s crosshairs.
“Iran practises its free trade rights with Venezuela, and we are ready to send more ships if Caracas demands more supplies from Iran,” Mousavi said during his televised address.
Iran sent five oil tankers to Venezuela last week carrying around 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and petrochemical components.
The South American country, which used to boast the world’s largest oil reserves, is in desperate need of petrol and other refined fuel products due to hyperinflation, US sanctions, a severe fuel shortage, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite Washington’s objection to the shipment, the tankers did not encounter any immediate signs of US military interference, but Venezuelan authorities did describe “threats” from the US over the shipments.
Washington had warned governments, seaports, shippers and insurers that they could face American retaliation if they were to aid the Iranian tankers.
The US recently reinforced its naval presence in the Caribbean, saying the extra forces were deployed for an expanded anti-drug operation.
“Venezuela and Iran both want peace, and we have the right to trade freely,” President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised address last week. He also referred to the two countries as “revolutionary peoples who will never kneel down before the North American empire”.
Venezuela’s Fuel Shortage and US Sanctions
Venezuela’s oil sector has been damaged by years of political and economic instability — operating well below capacity since the US imposed sanctions in 2017. Its refining network is believed to be operating at around 10 percent of its 1.3 million-barrel-per-day capacity.
The shortage has forced it to rely on imports, but US sanctions limit the sources and types of fuel it can receive.
Last week, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the Iranian fuel shipments were “a sad reminder of Maduro’s hopeless mismanagement”.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in a tweet last week that Iran and Venezuela had “always supported each other in times of difficulty”, adding: “Today we see the fruits of the multipolar world.”
Earlier in May, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned of retaliatory measures against the US if Washington caused problems for tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela.
Maduro has withstood more than a year of US-led efforts to remove him and retains the support of the military.
Washington backs Maduro’s rival Juan Guaido and considers him to be Venezuela’s legitimate leader, while Iran has repeatedly expressed support for Maduro.
Iran-Venezuela Solidarity Breaks US Blockade
Kathy Durkin / Workers World
(May 28, 2020) — In an act of solidarity, Iran is sending a fleet of five tankers carrying 1.53 million barrels of needed gasoline and related fuel products to Venezuela. On May 23 and 25, the first two ships traveled through the Caribbean Sea and entered Venezuelan territorial waters with a Venezuelan naval and air escort. That delivery broke Washington’s criminal blockade against the Venezuelan people.
Venezuelans in Caracas, the capital, are cheering the victory over the US, which had threatened to stop the ships by force. Of Iran’s determination and solidarity, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said, “Iran and Venezuela have always supported each other in times of difficulty.” (Guardian, May 23)
Socialist Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel proclaimed on Twitter: “Long live solidarity among peoples!” (May 24)
Both sovereign nations — Iran and Venezuela — challenged severe US economic sanctions and bellicose threats of military action. President Donald Trump announced that the US had Venezuela surrounded. So far Washington has not attempted retaliation following the delivery. It remains to be seen whether the US will act against either or both countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani strongly warned the US against interfering:
“If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, [the US] will be in trouble. We have the legitimate right to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and to serve our national interests.” (Guardian)
The danger of US military intervention is ever-present, given the history of US attacks against Iran and its attempts to subvert Venezuela’s Bolivarian government led by President Nicolás Maduro. In April, Washington ordered additional Navy warships, surveillance aircraft and special operative teams to the Caribbean, sending more destroyers close to Venezuela.
Washington lashed out verbally at Russia, China, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela about Iran’s bold action, and US military brass warned that their warships are patrolling the Caribbean.
Russia, China Condemn Coup Attempt
In another show of support for Venezuela, Dmitri Polyanskiy, Russia’s U.N. representative, introduced a resolution in the U.N. Security Council on May 22, calling for no interference in Venezuela. In effect, he denounced the May 3-4 coup attempt against the Bolivarian government. Russia’s resolution appealed to member-states to condemn the use of force, mercenaries and all forms of terrorism.
Venezuela’s military stopped the incursion carried out by a 60-person paramilitary force in speedboats, led by US Army Special Forces veterans, whose goal was to overthrow Maduro. Funding for their training camps in Colombia came from Venezuelan counter-revolutionary politician Yon Goicoechea.
China supported Russia’s Security Council resolution, expressed support for Venezuelan sovereignty and criticized US sanctions. Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam agreed.
Why Venezuela Needs Fuel
Venezuela has 300 million barrels of oil reserves, the largest of any one country. Oil revenue accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela´s export earnings.
Why does Venezuela need to import fuel? Venezuela needs diluents to refine its heavy crude oil so it can flow through pipelines. US sanctions have stymied domestic production of gasoline, as they prohibit importing diluents.
In August 2017, the Trump administration leveled brutal economic sanctions on Venezuela. In January 2019, Washington imposed a crushing oil embargo against PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, banning its sales on the US market and fuel exports from the US to Venezuela. It froze Venezuela’s assets in the US and barred US private or corporate trade or business dealings with Venezuela’s state-owned entities. Washington expanded that ban to non-US companies.
Washington imposed the sanctions to force out President Maduro and his administration. As Marco Teruggi explained:
“The United States government wants to strike at the heart of the Venezuelan economy: oil. The objective is to ensure that a collapse of the state-owned company PDVSA brings down the whole economy.” (Workers.org, March 13)
Sanctions have harmed the Venezuelan people, as funds from oil exports are used to buy essential food and medications.
Venezuela’s oil output dropped precipitously in 2017 and 2018, but rose in 2019 and was stabilizing. This winter, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on subsidiaries of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, in an attempt to force the company to stop transporting Venezuelan oil. Rosneft carried 60 percent of PDVSA’s oil. Rosneft closed its Venezuela operation in March.
The coronavirus pandemic then triggered an economic slowdown that reduced the global market for oil, so the already existing glut grew. Major producers agreed to decrease output. But prices remain low, which is hurting PDVSA’s operations and joint ventures. Venezuela’s fuel shortages are recurring now due to falling oil output and the deepening impact of US sanctions.
Also, the infamous 2019 electrical outages damaged Venezuelan refineries. President Maduro blamed them on sabotage instigated by forces tied to US-backed opposition leader and self-proclaimed “president” Juan Guaidó. The two remaining refineries were closed in January due to lack of crude oil to process and the need for repairs and spare parts.
Venezuela Has Allies
Iran volunteered to bring fuel and technical support to repair the Paraguana Refining Complex, Venezuela’s largest oil facility. Aided by technicians from Iran and China, repairs have begun. Recently, 20 Iranian flights have transported 700 tons of refinery parts and other materials from Iran and China.
But Washington is threatening Iran over its air corridor with Venezuela and ordering other countries to stop Iran’s overhead flights and end trade and business deals with and fuel shipments to Venezuela.
Yet calls are growing for the US to end the brutal sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, especially now during the pandemic, so both countries can better combat the deadly disease.
Material for this article also came from the Orinoco Tribune, TeleSUR and Venezuela Analysis.
Venezuela And Iran Show Solidarity: A Victory for Sovereignty, Independence, and Peace
Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers / Popular Resistance & UNAC
(May 25, 2020) — This week, Venezuela and Iran faced up to threats made by the United States and defied the illegal US sanctions by sending five oil tankers from Iran to Venezuela. The US’ long-term unilateral coercive measures have prevented the two countries with the largest oil reserves from selling their oil.
This economic terrorism has caused tens of thousands of deaths in each country. Despite this economic warfare and constant threats of military attack, the two nations joined together in solidarity and broke through the US blockade to deliver much-needed oil and supplies to Venezuela.
This was a victory for sovereignty, independence, and peace. It was an act of dignity for both countries to take this successful stand against the United States. They have shown the world that illegal US economic sanctions, which impact 39 countries and one-third of the world’s population, can be defeated. They set an example that other nations can refuse the US’ unlawful demands.
Acting together, the world can end the abusive unilateral coercive measures, end dollar domination, and create a multi-polar world where nations large and small have sovereignty and independence from hegemony.
Iranian oil tanker Fortune arrives in Venezuela waters and is escorted by the Venezuelan Navy. From Telesur
US Threats and Show of Force Dissipate
Last week, President Trump told a conservative audience that the US has Venezuela surrounded. Earlier this year, Trump ordered a US armada to the Caribbean to target Venezuela, including destroyers, littoral combat ships, Poseidon maritime planes, AWAC surveillance aircraft, and on-ground special forces units. This is the largest US military presence in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.
Anonymous White House officials told Reuters the US has been “looking at measures that can be taken” to stop the “unwelcome” impending delivery. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed high-level Trump official saying the administration “would not abide” Iran’s support of Maduro and “The president has made clear the United States will not tolerate continued meddling by supporters of an illegitimate regime.”
These threats are occurring just weeks after the failed May 3-4 mercenary invasion of Venezuela organized and led by ex-US special forces troops. The Bay of Pigs-like attempt to enter Venezuela by sea with 80 mercenaries was stopped by the Venezuelan government with the assistance of fishermen in the civilian militia. Two former US special forces and some Venezuelan military defectors are under arrest. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised to use all means at the disposal of the United States to free the US citizens.
US Navy ships in the Caribbean from Military.com.
This week, US courts allowed the seizure of Venezuela’s largest foreign asset, CITGO, worth an estimated $8 billion. A federal judge approved the sale of the CITGO refineries after the US Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling. Foreign Minister Arreaza denounced the sale as an act of piracy and said, “There are 12 children waiting for a bone marrow transplant” that was going to be paid for by CITGO profits.
On May 14, Venezuela filed suit in a London commercial court that seeks to force the UK Central Bank to return an estimated US $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold. Venezuela plans to use the gold to buy food, medicines, and healthcare equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic reports Reuters.
The ultimate corporate media source, the Wall Street Journal, urged military action to halt the Iranian tankers, warning of the “risk to US interests in doing nothing.” They claimed “President Trump has the legal power to declare an emergency and interdict the tankers.” It warned the US needs to be prepared to respond to Iran in the Persian Gulf if they do so.
Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published a memorandum to the President warning that taking action would result in serious blowback from the world against the US. Further, such an action would be illegal and an act of war that would have unpredictable consequences, not just in Latin America but in the Middle East where there are many US targets. They urged the administration to stop “saber-rattling” as “huffing and puffing hasn’t blown Maduro’s house down.”
The five supertankers — Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel — carrying around 1.5 million barrels of fuel have to pass the belligerent US armada. Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said, “They will be escorted by Bolivarian National Armed Forces boats and planes to welcome them in and thank the Iranian people for their solidarity and cooperation.”
“Iran will not tolerate obstacles [to its oil ships]. Both the United States and other countries know that we will not hesitate. If the obstacles continue or increase, Iran’s response will be forceful.”
Both Iran and Venezuela warned the United Nations that any action by the United States to stop the oil tankers would be illegal. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif wrote UN Secretary Antonio Guterres. Venezuela’s UN ambassador, Samuel Moncada, alerted the agency to the “threat of imminent use of military force by the United States.” The letter warned:
“Ships with British, Dutch, French and American flags are bordering the coasts of our country, with a hostile and aggressive attitude . . . threatening the imposition illegal of a naval blockade.”
He urged the UN Security Council to take immediate action to end the “warmongering and criminal policies,” of the US, which threaten the peace, security, and stability of the region.
Earlier in the week, the US blocked the Security Council resolution denouncing the attempted mercenary invasion of Venezuela. Ambassador Moncada thanked the countries that stood up for international law in the Security Council. Maduro said, “We have had a great victory in the UN Security Council” by exposing the US to criticism from the world.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro shake hands at Wyndham Concorde hotel in Magarita, Venezeula, on September 16, 2016. Reuters.
The First Iranian Supertanker Enters Venezuelan Waters
While the world waited for military conflict, on Saturday night after 7 pm local time, the first supertanker entered Venezuelan waters and is currently being escorted by the Bolivarian Republics’ military to port. The US did not intercept the tanker. Hopefully, this will continue for the remaining four tankers and the US will end the economic war against Iran, Venezuela, and other countries.
The arrival of these tankers from Iran marks a historic milestone as it is the first time that the Middle Eastern country exported fuel to Latin America. This is one example of many of US sanctions bringing nations together in solidarity against the United States. The US is caught in a paradox — the more it exercises force, the more power it loses as nations unite against US domination.
Venezuela’s strategic ties to Iran date back almost two decades, when President Hugo Chávez, the founder of its socialist state, struck a flurry of economic and financial deals with the president of Iran. The two nation’s were co-founders of OPEC in 1960.
In 2008, Venezuela shipped gasoline to Iran when US sanctions were crippling its industry. Maduro has continued to build bilateral relations with Iran resulting in economic and other trade deals as well as through OPEC and the Non-Aligned Movement.
On Friday night, a group of Venezuelan youths raised the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran in front of the mountain barracks where Commander Hugo Chavez rests as a token of appreciation for the shipment of fuels. People in both Venezuela and Iran celebrated the victory over the US blockade.
Now is the time to build on that success to grow the movement against the US’ illegal coercive measures. The Sanctions Kill coalition is holding a series of webinars to educate and organize toward that goal. The first was on May 9 and featured representatives from six countries.
Speakers included Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal, Charge des Affaires of the Cuban Mission to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Francisco O Campbell, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the US, Dr. Bashar Ja’afari, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations and Carlos J. Ron Martinez, Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The next webinar will be on Sunday, May 31 at 1:00 pm EST and will feature representatives from Gaza, Venezuela, and other nations. It is taking place during an international week of action against imperialism from May 25 to 31.
The Non-Aligned Movement, a decades-old coalition of 120 nations representing 55 percent of the world’s population, has become reactivated. They met in Azerbaijan in October 2019 and in Venezuela in August 2019. Both meetings denounced US sanctions and US military threats around the world. Nations are starting to provide assistance to sanctioned countries. In April, Britain, France and Germany used a new trade mechanism that bypasses US sanctions called Instex to send medical aid to Iran. These are positive signs.
While the victory of Iran and Venezuela is significant, it does not end the US economic war against the two countries. The US is persistent in its foreign policy goals and both countries need to be prepared for US escalation as a result of the Iranian supertankers going to Venezuela.
Both countries cherish their independence and sovereignty. They will not give in. And they are building international solidarity. We in the US must demand that our government cease its hostilities and become a cooperative member of that global community.
Kevin Zeese is an American political activist who has been a leader in the drug policy reform and peace movements and in efforts to ensure a voter verified paper audit trail. Margaret Flowers, M.D., is a Maryland pediatrician seeking the Green Party nomination for the US Senate. She is co-director of PopularResistance.org and a board adviser to Physicians for a National Health Program and is on the Leadership Council of the Maryland Health Care Is a Human Right campaign.
Flowers and Zeese are co-directors of Popular Resistance. They have organized local and national campaigns for racial justice and against endless wars; in support of Chelsea Manning and in support of Single Payer Healthcare; to oppose the TTP/TTIP and more. Kevin and Margaret also have a weekly radio show and podcast called Clearing the Fog.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
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