The former tanker that the Iranian navy has converted into a warship could transport millions of gallons of crude oil to Venezuela as part of a ploy to circumvent U.S. sanctions, photos posted on Persian social media show.
Thursday, undated photos from IRIN Makran show the ship, designed to carry around 3 million gallons of crude oil, sailing low in the water compared to its January commissioning photos. The photos, broadcast on instant messaging service Telegram, show Makran and its accompanying frigate, IRIS Sahand, in progress after their departure at the end of April from their home port. A photo showed Sahand take fuel from Makran.
Merchant sailor and history professor Sal Mercogliano told USNI News after reviewing photos of Makran that the ship appeared to be fully loaded to near its maximum capacity.
“It’s loaded to the gills. It’s obviously loaded with fuel but a lot more fuel than is necessary, ”Mercogliano told USNI News Thursday.
“These ships could go around the world dozens of times. But what you can’t stop him from doing is delivering that fuel to Venezuela – that’s been the big deal, getting around the embargo and getting Iranian fuel to Venezuela. No one is going to stop an Iranian navy ship from delivering this oil. It is a sure way to get around the embargo. The embargo concerns commercial vessels, not naval vessels. How would you even know? “
Under maritime law, a warship is entitled to sovereign immunity and is not subject to the jurisdiction of any other state, James Kraska, professor of international and US maritime law, told USNI News on Thursday. Naval War College.
“Although it is a warship, because it is a naval auxiliary, it is not entitled to belligerent rights during an armed conflict, which means that it cannot legally carry out attacks, ”he said.
“But like US naval auxiliaries, it can perform the full range of naval support missions and is protected by sovereign immunity.”
That means Makran and its cargo are legally protected from prohibition by US law enforcement or the Coast Guard. Previous shipments of oil to Venezuela from Iran by commercial shippers have been seized by US officials. Iranian-flagged tanker shipments unloaded fuel in May and September 2020 in Venezuela,
“The shipowner is subject to US sanctions,” Iranian sanctions expert Kenneth Katzman told USNI News on Thursday.
“But the Iranian-owned ships have succeeded. They were not discouraged. They were not hijacked.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment when contacted by USNI News on Thursday.
Iranian state television confirmed on Thursday Makran and Sahand operated in the Atlantic. Iran has released photos of Sahand underway in the rough sea states typically found in the South Atlantic near the Cape of Good Hope and in contrast to the calmer waters of the Middle East.
“The navy is improving its maritime capability and proving its long-term durability in adverse seas and adverse Atlantic weather conditions,” said Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Deputy Coordinator of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the former Navy Guard Corps of the Islamic Republic. Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
In a clip on Iran’s Press TV, Sayyari said the pair of ships were more than 500 miles off the coast of Angola in the South Atlantic.
The Iranian navy is sailing in the Atlantic Ocean in a “show of force”, reports Yusef Jalali. pic.twitter.com/Be2GlpjCAk
– Press TV (@PressTV) June 10, 2021
Sayyari said the ships would not make stopovers while deployed. The statement follows a Politics report in which US officials warned Cuba and Venezuela not to let the Makran and Sahand dock in their respective countries.
These warnings came in part as a result of the revelation that Makran left Iran with seven rapid attack missiles on board in April, USNI News reported.
A Pentagon spokesman referred USNI News to a June 2 Defense Department statement that Iranian arms sales were “an act of provocation and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere.” As such, we reserve the right to take appropriate measures – in concert with our partners – to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons, ”without addressing the issue of the use of a warship to circumvent punishments.
the PA reported that the Maduro government did not intend for the ships to enter Venezuela, citing an anonymous government official,
While Tehran and Caracas deny Makran heading to Venezuela, a decision to evade US sanctions is in line with Iran’s playbook, Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iranian expert from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told USNI News on Thursday.
“Adaptability is the name of the game for the Islamic Republic. This is especially true when it comes to exporting oil and trying to stay ahead of the web of political, economic and legal restrictions on its oil exports and associated capabilities, ”Taleblu said. .
“Although Iran is not the first country to convert an oil tanker into a military ship, if the Makran is heading towards Venezuela, this might just be the cover Iran needs to avoid the ban or interception. “
Mercogliano told USNI News that converting a commercial oil tanker into a warship has been a tactic the Americans and Russians have been using for decades.
“The conversion into [Makran] is very minimal. They put a flight deck on her, a crane on her. She is basically fair [a] oil tanker. This is what was done during World War II to turn tankers into temporary aircraft carriers or transport PT ships for delivery, ”he said.
“The Soviets did it during the Cold War all the time. They glued a helicopter deck to the bow of an oil tanker, loaded the cargo on deck, and delivered the oil and cargo.
Taleblu told USNI News using Makran, Tehran could find ways to get around the restrictions imposed by the United States.
“Whether it is arms or oil, Iran will certainly try to take advantage of a new and innovative way to break the sanctions and to get itself and its international partners out of an economic vice,” did he declare.
“Makran, if he docks in Venezuela, maybe just the way to break the sanctions. “