The US government will sanction five Iranian ship captains who delivered shipments of oil to Venezuela last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday.

The sanctions follow the delivery of 1.5 million barrels of oil from Iran to Venezuela in defiance of US sanctions. Mr Pompeo said the US is committed to keep applying pressure on both governments.

The US Treasury Department announced the sanctions against the captains of the five ships from previously sanctioned Iran Shipping Lines and National Iranian Tanker Company that were used to deliver Iranian gasoline to the Nicola Maduro’s regime in Venezuela.

The United States was first among more than 50 nations to back Mr Maduro’s political rival Juan Guaidó, who as head of the opposition-led congress claimed presidential powers in early 2019, arguing that Mr Maduro’s reelection had been invalid.

“These captains, who led five Iranian flagged tankers — CLAVEL, PETUNIA, FORTUNE, FOREST and FAXON — delivered gasoline and gasoline components to Venezuela, and are now added to OFAC’s Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List (SDN List),” it said.

The sanctioned captains were identified as Ali Danaei Kenarsari, Mohsen Gohardehi, Alireza Rahnavard, Reza Vaziri and Hamidreza Yahya Zadeh.

The US Treasury expects, despite its sanctions, that more shipments will be dispatched from Iran to the Maduro regime. “The Iranian regime has sent five tankers carrying over 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and gasoline components to Venezuela, with plans to continue gasoline sales to the brutal and corrupt Maduro regime in the months to come,” it said.

“The Iranian regime’s support to the authoritarian and corrupt regime in Venezuela is unacceptable, and the Administration will continue to use its authorities to disrupt it,” US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin said.

The sanctions come almost a month after the shipments were delivered and follow US President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks on a possible meeting with Nicolas Maduro.

In an interview with Axios on Sunday, Mr Trump said he is not opposed to such a meeting.

“I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings. I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I’ve turned them down,” he said.

Following backlash, he reversed his position in a tweet on Monday. “My admin (sic) has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and against the oppressive Maduro regime! I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!”.

But in an election year, and in Florida where many expatriates from Venezuela are opposed to Mr Maduro, the campaign of Democratic nominee Joe Biden is planning to use his flip-flop to appeal to the anti-Maduro vote.

Source » thenational