UPDATED 6:55 AM PT — Tuesday, August 20, 2019
The U.S. is expressing concern over an Iranian oil tanker that was set free after being detained off of the coast of Gibraltar. The oil tanker set its course for Greece late Sunday after being detained by the British for a month for its alleged plans to break EU sanctions against Syria.
This comes after officials in Gibraltar rejected a U.S. application to block its release last week. According to U.S. officials, the ship is assisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Washington.
In an interview Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was a “shame” the vessel was allowed to go free despite its ties to the terrorist group.
“Its unfortunate that, that happened — these are oil profits that when this is ultimately sold somewhere into the market that will run back to the Qassem Sulaimani and the Iranian Quds Force…elite forces that have sown terror and destruction and killed Americans all around the world,” stated Pompeo. “And now they will have, if they are successful and we hope that they are ultimately not, but if they are successful they will have more money, more wealth, more resources to continue their terror campaign, to continue their assassination campaign…this is what we are trying to stop, so it’s very unfortunate.”
While speaking in Finland Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif thanked the U.K. for its decision to release the ship, and said Iran does not have to comply with international sanctions placed on it.
“Iran is not subjected to European decisions and Europe does not seek to impose its decisions on non-EU members,” said the Iranian official. “So, there was no grounds for taking that ship by Gibraltar authorities and by the United Kingdom.”
Zarif went on to blame the U.S. for escalating tensions in the region, referring to U.S. actions against the Ayatollah regime as illegal.
“We are happy that this ordeal has ended and I hope that this will lead to less escalation,” he stated. “Certainly the United States continues to try to make more escalation by passing a rather purely political court decision on on this ship, which is a travesty of justice and law.”
It is still unclear why the tanker is heading to Greece, however, British authorities believe it will not unload its shipment to Syria. A U.S. official told reporters Monday, Washington has expressed its “strong position” to Mediterranean officials against doing business with the tanker. The ship is on course to arrive in Greece next Sunday.