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Iran Denies Owning Oil Cargo While Demanding US Release Another Tanker

July 24 ------ Iran is ratcheting up its rhetoric regarding oil tankers and in an odd twist on Friday denied that it owns the oil aboard one of its tankers that was recently involved in a ship-to-ship transfer which prompted Indonesia to arrest the ship. Iran is increasing its war of words against the United States demanding the return of a cargo seized by the U.S. saying it would retaliate if the ship now lying off the Texas coast is unloaded.

These moves are the latest by Iran which has been increasingly active and striking out against the oil sector. The U.S. and Western Allies have accused Iran of interfering with and harassing ships in the Strait of Hormuz with both the U.S. and British documented recent instances where they have gone to aid of ships. The U.S. highlighted two other cases where Iran has seized tankers in international waters.

In response to the increased actions, the U.S. Navy and UK’s Royal Navy both reported they were increasing their presence and activity in the waters around Iran. The U.S. Department of Defense reported yesterday that the Secretary of Defense had ordered additional deployments including the USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall, and its associated personnel and equipment into the USCENTCOM area of responsibility. This is in addition to the recently approved forces comprising F-35s, F-16s, and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Thomas Hudner, all being sent into the region as part of the U.S.’s commitment to the free flow of commerce.

As the U.S. Defense Department was making its announcement, Iran responded by threatening to “retaliate against any oil company unloading Iranian oil from a seized tanker.” Reuters attributed the statement to a senior commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' navy citing the ongoing battle over the tanker Suez Rajan. The U.S. used a court order awarding the profits from the oil to the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to seize the tanker and bring it to the U.S. The Wall Street Journal however reported earlier this week that American companies were refusing the work to offload the tanker fearing retribution from Iran.

Iranian state media quoted Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri saying “We hereby declare that we would hold any oil company that sought to unload our crude from the vessel responsible and we also hold America responsible. The era of hit and run is over, and if they hit, they should expect to be struck back.”

In an odd twist, the Iranian Oil Ministry today said in a statement that the oil cargo of Arman 114, which was seized by Indonesia on July 11 after they caught the vessel involved in illegal transshipment of crude oil, does not belong to the Islamic Republic of Iran. "Published news linking the cargo of this ship to Iran have no validity and this is done with the aim of creating a negative atmosphere against our country," the oil ministry statement. They inferred that the U.S. is behind an ongoing campaign of “spreading negative propaganda against Iran.” Without providing details on the ownership of the oil, Iran contends that news reports linking it to the cargo “lacks any credibility.”

The tanker, Arman 114, however, is registered in Iran and operated by the Iranian state oil company. Indonesia reported that they had seen the vessel anchored and conducting a transfer to another tanker. They said the vessel was spoofing its AIS signal, not displaying a flag, and attempting to escape when detected. The other tanker involved in the incident was taking similar actions and was displaying the name of a tanker that had been scrapped over five years ago.



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