A tanker carrying 800,000 barrels of stolen Iranian oil began unloading its cargo off the coast of Texas on Sunday despite Iranian warnings of retaliation, The Associated Press reported.
The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Suez Rajan was seized by the US under the pretext of sanctions relief back in April and forced to sail to Texas instead of China. American companies were hesitant to unload the Iranian oil over fears of Iranian reprisals in the Persian Gulf.
According to AP, ship tracking data showed the Suez Rajan starting a ship-to-ship transfer of its cargo to another tanker, the MR Euphrates. The cargo transfer came after a bipartisan group of US senators and House members urged the Biden administration to facilitate the unloading of the oil.
The AP report said the Suez Rajan was owned by Oaktree Capital Management, an American company based in Los Angeles. But previous reports and ship tracking websites say the tanker is owned and managed by a Greek company.
The US seizure of the Suez Rajan provoked the Iranian seizure of two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. In response to the Iranian actions, the US has been bolstering its military presence in waters near Iran and is considering placing armed troops on commercial vessels.
The US has a history of stealing or attempting to steal Iranian energy shipments using the pretext of sanctions enforcement. Last year, the US seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil in Greece and attempted to take the cargo, but a Greek court ruled against the confiscation. Tehran seized two Greek tankers in response to the US move and released them after the court’s ruling.
In 2021, the US government sold 2 million barrels of Iranian oil for $110 million from a tanker seized near the UAE. During the Trump administration, the US sold off Iranian gas that was bound for Venezuela.