Rep. Berman Threatens Tuvalu Over Iranian Oil Shipping

Follows Up Similar Threats Against Tanzania by Going After Tiny Island Nation

Following up on reported similar threats to Tanzania, Rep.  Howard Berman (D – CA), the former House Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman has threatened the tiny island nation of Tuvalu with sanctions over their reflagging service, which is reportedly be using by some Iranian oil tankers.

Reflagging the ships wouldn’t stop them from being under the assorted embargoes on Iranian oil, but it might conceivably make it easier for them to buy insurance, which according to Berman is “sanctionable activity” from a US perspective.

The sanctionability is likely neither here nor there for Tuvalu, as the tiny island chain’s entire economy is little more than a collection of fishing boats and a handful of coconut trees, and their trade with the United States is non-existent. The US could impose a full Cuba-style embargo on trade with Tuvalu and likely no one on either side would notice.

Rather the move is political grandstanding by Berman. After the US exempted every nation that it couldn’t afford to alienate from the Iran sanctions (Japan, China, South Korea et al) they are browbeating tiny countries.

Tuvalu’s embassy could not be reached for comment on the threat, primarily because Tuvalu has no embassy.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.