The US continues with its efforts to ratchet up its long running campaign of financial sanctions and economic blockade against Venezuela, with the objective of either forcing President Nicolas Maduro to resign and turn power over to a transitional ‘government’ acceptable to the US, or persuading his colleagues (and senior military officials in particular) to abandon the president and agree to a transitional power-sharing agreement. If this cannot be achieved the US seems determined to devastate the South American country’s economy to such an extent that it becomes ungovernable.
As the US runs out of additional targets within Venezuela that it can add to its campaign of financial and economic pressure, last week a senior official in the Trump administration told Reuters News Agency that the US was considering measures it could take in response to reports of a fuel shipment from Iran to Venezuela. Both Iran and Venezuela are subject to extensive unilateral US sanctions. The Trump administration official declined to specify the measures being weighed, but said options would be presented to Trump.
According to the media reports, the Iran-flagged vessel ‘Clavel’ passed the Suez Canal on Wednesday after loading fuel at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port in late March. As subsequently reported by Al Jazeera, an Iranian news agency declared on Saturday that there would be repercussions if the United States attempted to intercept the Iranian fuel shipment.
Iran’s Nour news agency reported that: “News received from informed sources indicate that the US Navy has sent four warships and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the VP-26 squadron to the Caribbean region.” The agency further declared:
“If the United States, just like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international waterways, it would be taking a dangerous risk, and that will certainly not go without repercussion.”
Separately, an Iranian analyst suggested Tehran may retaliate against US vessels in the Gulf if the US takes action against the Iranian vessel, noting that.
“The US Navy and its allies in the Persian Gulf are hostages to any kind of violation against Iran’s legal international shipping,” Mahdi Mohammadi said on Twitter.
The US threats follow increased pressure in April on the Western energy giants that still operate in Venezuela, forcing them to further reduce their activities under waiver agreements previously agreed with the US Treasury Department. Chevron had been exempted from the US oil sanctions imposed in January 2019 so that it could continue operations in Venezuela and export crude shipments from its joint ventures. The exemption was renewed until 1 December after the previous one expired in April, along with the exemptions granted to US servicing companies Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford. However, the renewed authorizations include a prohibition on drilling, lifting, purchasing or processing Venezuelan-origin crude or oil products. The US companies’ activities are now strictly limited to maintenance of essential operations and contracts.
Thus developments continue to follow the script laid out by the US Southern Command’s strategic document ‘Master Stroke – Plan to overthrow the Venezuelan dictatorship’, leaked by the press 2 years ago (first reported by Stella Calloni at Voltaire Network).
The latest measures come several weeks after the US offered a reward of $15 million for Maduro’s capture, presumably a motivating factor behind the recent failed incursion attempt by mercenaries from Colombia. The provocative US actions and their readiness to flagrantly violate international laws and norms make a reduction in tensions in both regions extremely unlikely, as is apparent from the Iranian leader’s latest statement earlier today that it is inevitable that the US will be forced to retreat from Syria and Iraq if they do not leave voluntarily.