http://almashareq.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_am/features/2019/09/09/feature-02
Politics |

Iranian supertanker arrives at Syria's Tartous

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo and AFP

A satellite image shows the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 off the Syrian coast near the port of Tartous. [Photo by Digital Globe via US National Security Adviser John Bolton's Twitter account]

Iran's insistence on openly delivering oil to Syria is an unequivocal challenge to the international community, which has imposed sanctions on both countries, an Iranian affairs expert told Al-Mashareq.

Satellite images on Sunday night (September 8th) showed Iranian supertanker Adrian Darya 1 (previously Grace 1) has arrived at the Syrian port of Tartous.

The tanker had been zigzagging in the eastern Mediterranean since it was released from the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on August 18th, after being held for six weeks on suspicion it was delivering oil to Syria.

Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 on September 8th arrived off the coast of the Syrian port of Tartous. [Photo courtesy of Tartous Port General Company Facebook page]

Gibraltar security forces aided by British Royal Marines intercepted the supertanker off the Gibraltar coast on July 4th on suspicion of shipping its 2.1 million barrels of oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

A Gibraltar court ordered its release on August 15th, despite an 11th-hour US legal bid to keep it in detention, after receiving written assurances from Iran that it would not head to countries under EU sanctions.

The US Department of Treasury blacklisted the vessel under an anti-terrorist order, saying it was "blocked property" and that "anyone providing support to the Adrian Darya 1 risks being sanctioned".

On August 18th it set sail for the eastern Mediterranean flying the Iranian flag and with a new name -- the Adrian Darya.

Iranian obfuscation

Iran never officially stated the ship's destination, repeatedly denying it was bound for Syria as it headed eastwards.

In a Friday social media post accompanied by a satellite photo, US national security adviser John Bolton claimed the Adrian Darya 1 had arrived at Tartous.

On Sunday, state media in Iran cited foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying the tanker had berthed on Mediterranean shores and unloaded its cargo, without saying exactly where.

Tehran denied it had made any promises about the destination of the ship.

On Sunday, Mousavi said the Adrian Darya 1 "has reached its destination and the oil has been sold", without providing further details.

Mousavi did not specify if the supertanker had unloaded its cargo.

"It is in the Mediterranean," he said, facing the coast of a country he did not name.

Iran last month said it had "sold the oil" aboard the tanker and that the owner would decide the destination, but it did not identify the buyer.

Maritime tracking service TankerTrackers said that as of Sunday night the Adrian Darya 1 was off the coast of Syria's Tartous but had not unloaded the oil.

An act of defiance

"The Iranian supertanker's arrival at the Syrian coast was expected, despite Iranian promises that it would not head there," Iranian affairs researcher Fathi al-Sayed told Al-Mashareq.

He pointed to earlier reports that said the declared and suspected destination of the Adrian Darya 1 had changed multiple times since its release from Gibraltar, and accused the Iranian regime of manipulating the facts to achieve its aims.

"Iran's insistence on delivering oil to Syria is a clear and unequivocal challenge to the will of the international community, which has imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime for its continuing crimes against the Syrian people," he said.

The sanctions imposed on Iran also place severe restrictions on the export of Iranian oil, al-Sayed said, and thus the delivery of oil to Syria is a double violation by the Iranian side that is likely to put it at risk of further sanctions.

The Iranian regime is determined to pursue its expansionist plans, support the Syrian regime and fuel disputes that will prolong the war at a time when the Iranian people are experiencing extreme domestic hardship, al-Sayed said.

Their wealth is being diverted outside the country to support the agenda of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at a time when the Iranian economy is collapsing, commodity prices are skyrocketing and jobs are scarce, he said.

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