WASHINGTON, Aug 20, (Agencies): The United States has conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government about an Iranian tanker that sailed for Greece on Monday after it was freed from detention off Gibraltar and Washington says is carrying oil to Syria, a State Department official said. Any efforts to assist the tanker could be considered as providing material support to a US designated foreign terrorist organization, which has immigration and potential criminal consequences, the official said.
The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar late on Sunday. Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Monday that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and was scheduled to arrive next Sunday. The official said the tanker was assisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, by transporting oil to Syria.
The official said the United States had conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government, as well as to all ports in the Mediterranean about facilitating the tanker. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday evening that the release of the Iranian oil tanker “Grace 1” that was held in Gibraltar is “very unfortunate.” In an interview with Fox News, Pompeo stressed “it’s unfortunate that happened.
These are oil profits that, when this is ultimately sold somewhere into the market, that will run back to the Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian Qods Force, their elite forces that have sown terror and destruction and killed Americans all around the world.” “If they’re successful, and we hope that they’re ultimately not, but if they’re successful, they’ll have more money, more wealth, more resources to continue their terror campaign, to continue their assassination campaign in Europe,” he stressed.
He reiterated “this is what we’re trying to stop, so it’s very unfortunate that ship was released.” The former head of Dutch defense forces said he believes The Netherlands should not take part in a US-led mission to protect shipping in the strategic Strait of Hormuz if the aim of the operation is to pile more pressure on Iran. The comments of former defense chief Dick Berlijn came in an interview published in Tuesday’s edition of Dutch daily De Volkskrant. “I don’t think we should take part in an American operation in which we absolutely do not know what is going to happen,” he said.
Discussions about the possible security mission come against a backdrop of deepening confrontation between Iran and the West after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago. Berlijn said that if the mission proposed by the Trump administration is aimed at putting more pressure on Iran, “I’m strongly opposed to that.” Berlijn’s comments were published on the day Dutch Cabinet ministers held an informal meeting to discuss strategy after Parliament’s summer break.
Among key foreign policy issues facing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition are US requests to take part in operations in Syria and the Arabian Gulf crisis with Iran. Britain has so far been the only US ally to express willingness to join a maritime security mission. European nations are reluctant and Germany has said it will not be involved. Britain also has been giving UKfl agged vessels a naval escort since the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s seizure of the Stena Impero tanker in July. The tanker is still being held by the Islamic Republic.