Published: Fri, March 15, 2019

Pompeo set to meet oil executives, push United States crude exports, Iran issue

Pompeo set to meet oil executives, push United States crude exports, Iran issue

Iran will respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, Iran's defence minister said on Wednesday, in comments that came a week after Israel's prime minister said its navy could act against Iranian oil "smuggling" to enforce United States sanctions.

Iran reached an agreement with world powers in 2015 over its nuclear programme which led to the lifting of sanctions in 2016 but Trump pulled out of the deal in May previous year and reimposed US restrictions in November.

On March 6, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the world community to prevent Iran from dispatching oil overseas.

The defence minister also noted that Israeli actions would be seen as "piracy" if the navy would act against Iran, according to the news agency IRNA.

Hatami told IRNA on Wednesday that this action is considered "banditry" and a threat against global security and Iran will respond to it firmly.

Iran has more than 50 tankers, but this month, for example, it's using 12 of those to store oil in floating storage at sea, according to MarineTraffic data cited by Reuters.

Hatami, in his response, said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys the required capability to respond to this issue and if happens, it will give a crushing response".

On Friday, the navy intervened to repel pirates who attacked an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

"We never welcome any war, but we are ready to respond to any invasion".

He claimed that Iran is trying to "covertly" ship fuel over maritime routes to "circumvent" the USA sanctions.

Shipping sources tell Reuters that this time around it will be more hard for Iran to procure ships than it was with the previous round of sanctions due to increased scrutiny and because businesses don't want to be involved in anything linked to Iran for fear of running afoul of the US sanctions.

"I call on the global community to halt, by any means, Iran's attempts to bypass the sanctions via the sea", Netanyahu said.

The Trump administration has used the threat of insurance liabilities to pressure countries into blocking Iranian ships.

At least two other tankers registered to Panama - the Sarak and the Sobar - that were not previously considered part of Tehran's fleet - have been re-flagged to Iran this year. He also threatened to deploy the Israeli Navy to help tackle suspected Iranian efforts to smuggle out oil via maritime routes to skirt U.S. sanctions.

In November, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook described Iran's tanker sector as a "floating liability", saying the US sanctions would bar them from worldwide insurance markets, making them a risk for ports and canals which allow them access.

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