US Coerces Other States to Join in Its Piracy of Iranian Oil on the High Seas

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Waseem Shehzad

Dhu al-Hijjah 02, 1443 2022-07-01

News & Analysis

by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 5, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1443)

That the US is a rogue regime is well established. It also indulges in piracy on the high seas. It is now forcing other states as well to join in such acts that are clearly against international law. The US, however, is not always successful in such brazen acts of robbery.

Take the case of the American pirates forcing the Greek government to confiscate an Iranian oil tanker in late May. Unable to resist US pressure, the Greek government complied. On May 26, the US (in)Justice Department informed Greek authorities that it will confiscate the cargo of 700,000 barrels of Iranian crude. The cargo was then sent to the US on a tanker hired by Washington from a Greek shipping company, Reuters reported, quoting an unnamed Greek source.

Naturally, Iran was not going to allow such piracy to go unchallenged. In order to provide a veneer of dubious legitimacy to joining American piracy, the Greek government sought a court ruling for Iranian oil theft. Aware that this brazen act of piracy and theft was being perpetrated at the behest of Washington, the court ruled that Athens could seize the Iranian ship and cargo. Tehran appealed the verdict in another Greek court and won. It forced the Greek government to overturn its previous decision and release the Iranian tanker, Lana (formerly named Pegas).

On June 14, Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) issued a statement saying the Greek government had ordered the release of the ship and its cargo following the court order that was issued on June 8. Athens was forced to comply despite pressure exerted by the Washington pirates.

“The Greek government has eventually ordered the return of the cargo to its owner and lifted the seizure order thanks to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s decisive and prompt actions, the pursuit of the matter by relevant bodies, and the support from the Minister of Roads and Urban Development [Rostam Qasemi],” read the statement from Iran’s Maritime Organization.

Ever vigilante, Tehran did not rely only on the Greek courts that are also susceptible to US pressure. In the real world, laws can unfortunately be twisted to serve the interests of the powerful. Iran used other means as well at its disposal. In the narrow waterway of the Persian Gulf, there are always occasions when tankers and ships violate maritime laws. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are on the lookout for such violators and take prompt action to warn or apprehend the offending parties, depending on the circumstances.

On May 28, Iranian media sources reported that the IRGC naval forces had seized two Greek-flagged tankers in the Persian Gulf. They were carrying around 1.8 million barrels of crude oil or related products. Other reports said that the two ships were seized on May 27 in the Persian Gulf over maritime violations.

The Fars report identified one of the tankers as Delta Poseidon. It had loaded crude oil in the Iraqi port of Basra for delivery to a Greek refinery. It was stopped by Iranian forces off the southern port of Asaluyeh after it was found in violation of maritime rules. Enforcing such rules is the responsibility of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The IRGC also busted a smuggling ring around the same time in the Persian Gulf.

Delta Poseidon is operated by Delta Ships, a major international shipping company based in Greece. Another Greek tanker, the Prudent Warrior, a 5-year-old ship was also seized by IRGC near the Iranian island of Faror on May 27, again over violations of maritime laws.

The ship had departed from Qatar’s Ras Laffan on May 22 and was heading to a port in the United Arab Emirates, according to data on the shipping website, Marine Traffic. Was IRGC’s seizure of the two Greek ships a coincidence since it occurred just two days after Greek authorities allowed the US to confiscate Iranian crude?

It can be interpreted in different ways but Tehran was determined to send a clear signal that it will not allow piracy on the high seas by the US or its surrogates. The days of American piracy, like its global hegemony, are coming to an end, thanks to determined efforts by countries like Islamic Iran that will not tolerate such criminal conduct to go unchallenged.

The Iranian-flagged ship had Russian crews onboard. Initially Greece said it had seized it over violations of European Union sanctions against Russia. If so, why was its crude oil given to the US to be shipped to Texas? True, Americans are experiencing extremely high prices at the pump but such piracy will hardly ease their pain. Further, the high prices are the direct result of US belligerence toward Russia over Ukraine. As a result of the US-led embargo on Russian oil and gas, markets have been disrupted.

American piracy of Iranian crude oil predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Freezing Iranian assets abroad and blackmailing other countries to join in such illegal acts are standard US practices. Tehran is unable to access billions of dollars in oil sales because the US threatens other countries with sanctions. While such sanctions are completely illegal, Iran has to cope with them and seek other ways to access its funds, often in barter trade or using other countries’ currency. It has worked reasonably well for Tehran so far.

A number of countries including Russia, China, Belarus, the Central Asian Republics, Turkey as well as Venezuela have also joined in efforts to bypass US sanctions. Such barter deals or trading in their own currencies has started to exert pressure on the US dollar. Once the dollar reserves of central banks fall below the 50 percent mark, dollar hegemony will end, and with it American gangsterism. It is already feeling blows from other countries, hence the growing economic crisis, both in the US and Europe.

It is time to hasten the end of American unilateralism by moving away from the dollar as reserve currency. If crude oil begins to trade in other currencies—a move already seriously contemplated—the world would witness a radical shift in how global politics are conducted.

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