Venezuela military to ESCORT Iranian fuel tankers to Caracas against de facto naval blockade by US
23 May, 2020, 13:46
They are expected to arrive in Venezuela between late May and early June.
Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, but production has plummeted in the last two decades and the country is in a deep economic crisis.
The South American country and OPEC member once had a thriving oil industry, but years of political and economic chaos in the country have created dire fuel shortages, in part because of major issues involving its refineries.
Venezuela's defence minister said they would be "welcomed" into its exclusive economic zone, which extends 370km (200 nautical miles) from its shores.
With the United States weighing a response to a gasoline shipment from Iran to Venezuela, people waiting in line outside service stations in the country's capital said they were eager to fill their tanks, regardless of how the fuel arrived.
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Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Wednesday that Iran will respond firmly to any "annoyance" to its oil tankers which are carrying gasoline for Venezuela.
Zarif has stressed that the US must give up bullying on the world stage and respect the rule of worldwide law, especially free shipping in the high seas.
Former U.S. 5th Fleet commander Vice Admiral John Miller suspects that the tankers probably have on-board force protection personnel from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted vis-à-vis those responsible for the 9/11 attacks against the us, has been expanded to broadly apply to any group designated as a foreign terrorist organization and was the stated justification for the January 3 targeted killing of IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.
The announcement came soon after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as the country's legitimate leader by many countries including the USA, said the shipment was alarming for the region.
Mr Maduro calls Mr Guaido a USA puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, and blames U.S. sanctions for Venezuela's economic woes.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araghchi also told the Swiss ambassador, whose country represents USA interests in Iran, that any potential threat to the Islamic Republic's tankers would be met with a "quick and decisive response" and that "the United States government will be responsible for its consequences".