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Two Senators have urged President Biden to give the Department of Homeland Security powers to resume seizure of Iranian oil cargos.
In a letter cited by Reuters, Senators Joni Ernst (R) and Richard Blumenthal (D) wrote that the DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations office has been unable to seize Iranian cargos of crude oil for more than a year.
The reason for this long lull in Iranian cargo seizures was a set of policy limitations imposed on the Department of Treasury’s Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture, the report noted.
Before these limitations were introduced, the Homeland Security Investigations office seized some $228 million worth of Iranian oil and fuel oil shipments, Reuters recalled.
“Iran’s oil sales remain a KEY revenue source for the regime to promote a destabilizing agenda & bolster terrorist groups who intend to harm the U.S. I'm working with colleagues from across the aisle to ensure Iranian oil sanctions are actually enforced!” Senator Joni Ernst said in a tweet.
The senator was also member of a group that yesterday introduced a bill dubbed the Maritime Architecture and Response to International Terrorism in the Middle East (MARITIME) Act, whose stated purpose was to “develop a strategy with partners and allies in the Middle East to counter maritime threats posed by Iran, violent extremist organizations, and criminal networks.”
The letter and the bill came simultaneously with news that Iranian forces had seized a tanker in the Gulf of Oman. The vessel, Advantage Sweet, was carrying crude oil for Chevron from Kuwait to Texas, but collided with an Iranian vessel in the gulf, according to the Iranian Navy.
The U.S. Navy has accused Iran of interfering with navigational rights in international waters. "Iran's continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy," the U.S. Navy said in a statement, adding that Iran had seized at least five commercial vessels in the Middle East over the last two years.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com