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The 'Biggest Ever' Flotilla Of Iranian Tankers Is En Route To Venezuela

It appears both Iran and Venezuela are ready and willing to test the outgoing Trump administration in a major gambit to skirt sanctions in a crude and fuel export scheme.

The daily American military newspaper Stars & Stripes alongside Bloomberg reports this weekend that Iran "is sending its biggest fleet yet of tankers to Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions to help the isolated nation weather a crippling fuel shortage," based on sources familiar with their movements.

"Some of the flotilla of about 10 Iranian vessels will also help export Venezuelan crude after discharging fuel, the people said, asking not to be named because the transaction is not public," the report continues.

Illustrative file image 

This appears to be the first instance Iran has sent such a large fleet, which may potentially include smaller military escorts or patrols, or possibly armed commandos on board. Things could get interesting especially when the flotilla crosses the Caribbean Sea, given the concentrated presence of US Navy warships there.

While Maduro's Venezuela is rich in crude, it's actually for over the past year suffered a nationwide fuel shortage, given state-run processing plans which turn crude into usable gasoline have long fallen derelict and suffered mechanical failures. Caracas has sought outside help, including from the Iranians and Russians, in not only importing the necessary mechanical parts and operational products, but in bringing in teams of technicians that can bring the facilities online. Related: The 3 Hottest Electric Car Stocks For 2021

In the meantime Iran has launched several rounds of fuel deliveries since last summer. At least one major attempt to get Iranian fuel to Venezuela saw four tankers intercepted by the US military in August. The US federal government seized the over 1.1 million barrels of petroleum and later auctioned it off.

The last batch of Iranian petrol to make it through was reportedly in October. Tankers carrying Iranian fuel typically switch off their transponders to avoid attention for their sanctions-busting activities. 

But given the size of this current flotilla, it'll be hard to miss, as Stripes reports further:

The current fleet under sail is about double the size of the one that first startled international observers in May, crossing a Caribbean Sea patrolled by the U.S. Navy, to be greeted by Maduro himself upon arrival.

"We're watching what Iran is doing and making sure that other shippers, insurers, ship owners, ship captains realize they must stay away from that trade," Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special representative for Iran and Venezuela, said in September.

It's as yet unclear precisely when the large flotilla would reach the Caribbean, but the group of ships would certainly be wiser to keep a distance until at least after January 20, when Joe Biden is inaugurated and enters the White House.

By Zerohedge.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on December 07 2020 said:
    This could be a huge gamble from Iran at a time that President Trump and Israel are looking for an excuse to escalate tension with Iran in the remaining days of President Trump in the White House and possibly attack Iran’s nuclear installations.

    Sending one Iranian tanker with refined products and diluents to help Venezuela is one thing but sending a flotilla of Iranian tankers is another thing inviting US Navy to intercept the tankers and giving President Trump the excuse he and Israel have been seeking.

    Such an action is no different from the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist which was intended to provoke Iran into retaliation thus inviting a massive joint American and Israeli attack on its nuclear installations. By its calm attitude, Iran avoided this trap and it should therefore not set another one against itself.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Dr.Ajit S.Gondara Sarjit on December 08 2020 said:
    It is most probable that the said flotilla will not escape US Navy detection and the Biden administration will confiscate the oil to send a signal and strong message to the international community that Iran needs to be isolated and be forced to renegotiate a nuclear agreement.

    Its an attempt by Iran to test the new Biden administrations foreign policy on Irans exports of oil as well as its renewed attempt to restart its nuclear programme.

    Prof.Dr.Ajit S.Gondara

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