The US sold about 2 million barrels of stolen Iranian crude oil it acquired by seizing a tanker off the coast of the UAE in February, The Associated Press reported on Monday.
The Iranian oil came from the MT Achilleas, a tanker the US seized near the UAE port city of Fujairah. The US justified stealing the oil and seizing the tanker under the guise of sanctions enforcement. According to AP, US court documents allege that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) tried to sell the oil to China.
The Trump administration designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization, giving the US government the ability to seize IRGC assets. The US forced the Achilleas to sail to Houston, Texas. The US government then sold the 2 million barrels of oil for about $110 million.
The Iranian oil showed up in figures released by the US Information Energy Agency. The figures listed about 1 million barrels of crude oil that it said was “imported” from Iran, raising eyebrows since the US stopped buying Iranian oil decades ago.
Although the process of stealing the oil began before the US and Iran started indirect negotiations to revive the nuclear deal in April, it is certainly a provocative move that sends a bad signal to Tehran. It also shows a continuation of Trump-era policies, as the Trump administration’s Department of Justice stole several shipments of Iranian gasoline that was headed for Venezuela.