Five Iranian tankers provoke the United States

Five Iranian tankers provoke the United States

Both the Venezuelan and Iranian enemies of the US government under Donald Trump. An oil delivery from Tehran is now increasing tensions for Caracas. Will the United States intervene?

© picture-alliance / AP Photo / M. Moreno
One in five – the tanker

They are called “Clavel”, “Forest”, “Faxon”, “Fortune” and “Petunia”. These are not the names of luxurious cruise ships, but of five oil tankers that are currently causing another diplomatic confrontation between the United States and Iran. The reason: you are heading for Venezuela, which is under a US trade embargo. Each of these five ships is said to have petrol on board for more than $ 45 million.

The oil tankers have been on the road since the second week of May and increasingly cause nervousness in Venezuela’s capital Caracas. For example, with the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guidó, which more than fifty countries, including Germany, recognize as the transition president. He explains that Iranian oil supply is illegal and calls on the international community to prevent ships from arriving in Venezuela.

“I think it is a big mistake to ask the international community to stop these ships,” Benedicte Bull, an expert in Latin American studies at the University of Oslo, told DW. “The National Assembly has no authority to prevent oil tankers from entering.” In addition, the demand is pretty inhumane, because the population suffers enormously from the lack of gas in the country.

There is hardly any gasoline left in the oil producing country Venezuela - petrol station of the state oil company in Caracas 2017

© Reuters / A.M. Casares
There is hardly any gasoline left in the oil producing country Venezuela – petrol station of the state oil company in Caracas 2017

Venezuela, like many other Latin American countries, has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and the ongoing economic crisis is exacerbated by US economic sanctions. Since taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump has taken tough action against Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela, even if the U.S. has failed to overthrow Maduro. Iran, which is also suffering from Washington’s sanctions, is now helping the Latin American pariah.

Solidarity or provocation?

Altruistic help or conscious provocation? “There are of course several factors,” said Victor Mijares, political scientist at the University of the Andes in Colombia, DW. On the one hand, it is a help for a long-standing ally, because Venezuela and Iran have had very close ties since Hugo Chávez’s term in office, i.e. for around 20 years. “But it is also an opportunity to preserve a last sales market, since Iran is also suffering from the situation on the oil market,” said Mijares. There can be no question of altruism.

Long-standing ties: Venezuela's President Maduro (l) with Iran's President Rohani (r) in 2006 in Tehran

© picture-alliance / AP Photo
Long-standing ties: Venezuela’s President Maduro (l) with Iran’s President Rohani (r) in 2006 in Tehran

For Leonardo Bandarra, security policy expert at the Hamburg GIGA Institute, the rapprochement between Caracas and Tehran is a logical consequence of the policy in Washington, which clearly distances itself from the relaxation course of the former US President Barack Obama. “Given Washington’s hostile policies, Washington’s two opponents are coming closer to support each other,” Bandarra told DW. The Trump administration is said to be the sponsor and trigger of this movement.

Washington, the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean

But posting is even more than a humanitarian gesture and good business, Mijares adds: In the end, it is of course an inevitable provocation. Inevitable because Iran interferes in the direct geostrategic sphere of influence of the United States. And Tehran is doing this very deliberately, according to Mijares. “I believe that Iran is trying to find out whether and how Washington is reacting to such an action. And Venezuela too.”

The big question now is how Trump behaves in this endless conflict with Tehran, this time with Maduro as an ingredient. “He protested sharply, but I doubt he will do anything,” said Benedicte Bull. Mijares agrees and says the US government itself has too many economic and political problems to take new risks, especially in an election year .

“From a US perspective, there are two areas of conflict here, namely the one in the Persian Gulf with the one in the Caribbean,” emphasizes Mijares. The foreign policy consequences of a hasty Retaliation would be “incalculable and politically risky for the USA”.

Whether and when the oil tankers arrive in Venezuela is part of the geostrategic chess game between these three nations and changes little in the situation in Venezuela, said the political scientist Mijares. “With or without Iranian tankers, the political situation in Venezuela is pretty stuck.”

Author: Enrique Anarte


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