(May 22, 2020 / JNS) U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook slammed Iran on Thursday for shipping oil to Venezuela.
“We think that this is another regrettable example of the Iranian regime stealing the wealth of the Iranian people to help an illegitimate kleptocrat on the other side of the world,” he told JNS.
Hook’s statement comes as the Trump administration has reportedly been considering new sanctions and other steps in response to Iranian oil exports to Venezuela.
Hook declined to comment about such considerations or possible penalties for the activity, citing U.S. State Department policy not to preview any actions, including sanctions, taken by the department.
A U.S. Treasury Department spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the department “will continue to aggressively use its sanctions authorities to target malign activity and sanctions evasion,” and that anyone who works with Venezuela’s oil business could be sanctioned by the United States.
Five Iranian tankers apparently consisting of at least $45.5 million in value of gasoline and similar items are currently sailing to Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions, reported the Associated Press on Sunday.
A senior U.S. official told Reuters on May 14 that the Trump administration is reviewing measures it could take in response to the shipment.
Amid economic collapse, Venezuela has been relying on Iran to prop up its oil industry by giving the Islamic Republic tons of gold bars, thereby depleting the South American country’s gold vaults, reported Bloomberg late last month, citing sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
What was once an oil-rich nation, Venezuela holds some 70 tons of gold in its vaults, according to Bloomberg.
The U.S. Navy issued an alert on Tuesday to vessels in the Gulf to stay 109 yards away from American ships or else be “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures.”
“Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a U.S. naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat,” according to the text of the notice.
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