Satellite images show Iranian tanker photographed off Syrian port
The Adrian Darya, formally named Grace 1, was very close to Tartous on Sept. 6 after turning off its transponder for more than 13 hours in the Mediterranean west of Syria, Refinitiv ship-tracking data showed on Tuesday.
The tanker, which is loaded with Iranian crude oil, was detained off the coast of Gibraltar by the UK navy in early July on suspicion of heading towards Tartous to offload oil in contravention of European Union sanctions on the Syrian regime.
Gibraltar authorities ultimately released the Iranian oil tanker last month, despite repeated US requests to seize the tanker, claiming that it is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which it classifies as a terrorist organisation.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously alleged the Adrian Darya will head to Tartous to offload its 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil, worth some $130 million.
Iranian officials have not said where the ship will go, only that its cargo has been sold to an unnamed buyer.
The Islamic Republic has also said it could not name the actual destination due to "economic terrorism" by the US and its sanctions on Iran's oil sales.
Shipping experts believe the tanker is likely to try to conduct a ship-to-ship transfer with another vessel for part of its cargo after Iran said a sale had been concluded, Reuters reported.
|Adrian Darya-1 Iranian oil tanker [Click to enlarge]|
Washington blacklisted the tanker on Friday and warned any state against assisting the ship, a move it would consider as support for a “terrorist organisation”.
Earlier this week, the State Department confirmed a senior US official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of the Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria.
The Financial Times reported that Brian Hook, the State Department pointman on Iran, sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered "good news" of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized.
"We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate," a State Department spokeswoman said.
"We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies warning them of the consequences of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization," she said, referring to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.
|Route of the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya-1, formly named Grace 1 - [Click to enlarge]|
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Hook's initiative as he pointed to the Financial Times story.
"Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail -- deliver us Iran's oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself," Zarif tweeted.
State Department chief spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hit back using Zarif's exact words, accusing Iran of "outright blackmail" with its call for $15 billion from European powers to be paid back from Iran's future oil sales.
Iran says that, if it receives the credit line, it will come back into full compliance with a 2015 nuclear accord from which US President Donald Trump withdrew.
US authorities said that Kumar, 43, took over as captain in Gibraltar. After he apparently did not respond to the US offer, the Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions both on the ship and on Kumar himself, freezing any assets he may have in the United States and criminalising any US financial transactions with him.
Tensions between arch-enemies Iran and the US have soared ever since Washington stepped up its campaign of "maximum pressure" against Tehran and reimposed sanctions after leaving the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year.
President Donald Trump in June called off at the last minute an airstrike on Iran over its downing of a US spy drone, amid a military and naval buildup by Washington and its ally the UK in the Gulf.
Iran has also captured several oil tankers off its coast in the past months, reportedly in retaliation for the seizure of the former Grace 1.
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