The US imposed sanctions Wednesday (June 24th) on five Iranian ship captains who delivered oil to Venezuela, as Washington ratcheted up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, whose government it considers illegitimate.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Iranian-flagged oil tankers, which delivered some 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and oil to Venezuela, had been placed on the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklist.
"Mariners who do business with Iran and Venezuela will face consequences from the United States of America," Pompeo said.
"As a result of today's sanctions, these captains' assets will be blocked. Their careers and prospects will suffer from this designation," he added.
"The rogue regimes in Caracas and Tehran are unified by their penchant for repressing their people, corruption, self-enrichment and gross mismanagement of their people's wealth," Pompeo said.
The five Iranian-flagged tankers -- Clavel, Petunia, Fortune, Forest and Faxon -- are operated by the US-sanctioned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), the Treasury said.
The blacklisted Iranian captains are Ali Danaei Kenarsari, an employee of IRISL and the master of the Clavel; and Mohsen Gohardehi, who is master of the Petunia, an IRISL-managed tanker.
Also designated are Alireza Rahnavard, an employee of NITC and the master of the Fortune; Reza Vaziri, an employee of NITC and the master of the Forest; and Hamidreza Yahya Zadeh, an employee of NITC and the master of the Faxon.
All five captains have been added to OFAC's Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List (SDN List).
Warning to sanctions evaders
"The Treasury Department will target anyone who supports Iranian attempts to evade US sanctions and who further enables their destabilising behaviour around the world," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
"The Iranian regime's support to the authoritarian and corrupt regime in Venezuela is unacceptable, and the Administration will continue to use its authorities to disrupt it," he said.
In November, the Iranian regime imposed strict rationing and a 50% price hike on gasoline, the Treasury said.
"When the Iranian people protested the abrupt overnight cuts in fuel subsidies, the regime's security forces brutally cracked down on the demonstrators, resulting in the killing of approximately 1,500 people," it said in a statement.
"Now, despite the government's decision to restrict the Iranian people's access to vital fuel, the Iranian regime has sent five tankers carrying over 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and gasoline components to Venezuela," it said.
The Iranian regime "plans to continue gasoline sales to the brutal and corrupt Maduro regime", it added.
"While the Iranian people are forced to ration their fuel supply due to the Iranian regime's corruption, mismanagement and global malign activities, the regime continues to support terrorist groups and allied dictators in Syria and Venezuela with the export of this critical product," the Treasury said.
Mahan Air flights to Venezuela
Blacklisted Iranian carrier Mahan Air also has been embroiled in questionable activity on behalf of the Iranian regime in recent weeks, with multiple flights to transport oil-industry supplies to Venezuela.
Venezuela, which is under US sanctions and on the brink of economic collapse, has sought help from Iran to rebuild its crumbling oil facilities, while Iran, also under US sanctions, is not able to sell enough oil in cash.
The Islamic Republic has sought to make up for this shortfall in revenue by receiving payment in gold from Venezuela.
Mahan Air previously has been accused of collaborating with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force.