Iran Warns U.S. not to Detain Grace 1 Oil Tanker

The Islamic Republic’s Foreign Ministry has conveyed “warnings to U.S. officials” not to apprehend its Grace 1 oil tanker, which was released on Sunday, after Gibraltar authorities rejected a U.S. request to detain the vessel further. According to  Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi: “Iran has already given necessary warnings to U.S. officials through its official channels, especially the embassy of Switzerland, not to make such a mistake, because heavy consequences will await them.”

Despite a U.S. issued warrant for the seizure of the tanker, including the oil it carries and nearly 1 million dollars, Gibraltar Authorities said they could not comply with the American warrant because it was bound by European Union law. The move infuriated U.S. officials, who termed the vessel’s release as sheer weakness.

In a televised interview with Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the decision, saying: “Its unfortunate that, that happened. These are oil that when this is ultimately sold somewhere into the market that will run back to the Qassem Sulaimani and the Iranian Quds Force, there. Elite forces that have sown terror and destruction and killed Americans all around the world. And now they will have, if they are successful, and we hope that they are ultimately not, but if they are successful they will have more money, more wealth, more resources to continue their terror campaign, to continue their assassination campaign. This is what we are trying to stop, so it’s very unfortunate. Weakness never is the right outcome.”

Meanwhile in Helsinki, Finland visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underscored that the Islamic Republic is not interested in talks with the United States. In a joint press conference with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, the top Iranian diplomat took the opportunity to lambast the United States for its attempt to prolong the detention of the Iranian oil tanker, Grace 1. He said: “Certainty the United States continues to try to make more escalation by passing a rather, purely political court decision on this ship which is a travesty of justice and law. Now because of U.S. sanctions we cannot be very transparent with the destination of our oil because the United States illegally tries to bully others from purchasing our oil.”

The Finnish Foreign Minister, for his part, talked about Europe’s continued efforts to support the 2015 nuclear agreement. Minister Haavisto also noted that while Helsinki has not yet made its decision, it is considering joining the European INSTEX trade mechanism that aims to bypass U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran.

“Regarding the role of Europe supporting the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in this difficult times, I think we are trying to do our best of course on the European side. As I said, it’s the group of the E3 countries that have been very crucial on this issue. We are also trying to look at different kinds of financing mechanism including the proposed INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) mechanism and Finland is looking at it in a positive light, we have not made decisions yet here but we have been looking at the possibility of joining the INSTEX mechanism.”