‘If you hit us, we’ll hit back’: Iran’s message to US with Venezuela oil shipments

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here.
For the Islamic republic, it was a mission fraught with risk: send five Iranian-flagged fuel tankers through some of the world’s most crucial maritime gateways to cash-strapped Venezuela without being stopped by the Americans. With the shipment, Iran intended to send a clear message: that it was determined to challenge US policies more aggressively than before. The mission was accomplished last weekend, when the last of the tankers reached its destination. Washington did not intervene, despite its large military presence in Caribbean waters, and Iran succeeded in delivering much-needed petrol to the revolutionary socialist government of Nicolás Maduro. Venezuelan motorists lined up to fill their tanks and the authoritarian leader said he would visit Iran soon to sign more agreements and personally “thank the people” of Iran. US sanctions on Iran’s oil sales have severely throttled the republic’s ability to export crude. Anyone buying Iranian goods sanctioned by the Trump administration faces the risk of punitive measures from Washington. Venezuela is also under US sanctions.Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here.

“Our policy towards the US has changed from a defensive to an offensive approach,” said one Iranian regime insider. “The US sent us messages through two regional states that ‘we will hit your tankers if you proceed’. Our answer was clear: If you hit us, we’ll hit back. And they knew we would do so without a second of hesitation.” In a departure from Tehran’s usual practice when it seeks to defy sanctions, the tankers kept their radars on and did not reroute: they passed through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean and Caribbean waters. In the last stage of their journey, Venezuela, which had warned that any US efforts to stop the convoy would be an act of war, sent jets and the navy to escort the tankers.