On September 11, the U.S. State Department said it had irrefutable evidence that the Iranian supertanker Adrian Darya 1 (formerly Grace 1) had delivered oil to the Syrian government, breaking its promise to the U.K. authorities not to sell the crude to Damascus.
On the same day, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed that the ship had transferred the crude oil to Syria.
In a statement, Mr. Raab said: “Iran has shown a complete disregard for its assurances over Adrian Darya 1. This sale of oil to Assad’s brutal regime is part of a pattern of behavior by the government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security. We want Iran to come in from the cold, but the only way to do that is to keep its word and comply with the rules based on the international system.”
However, the Iranian Ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, who was summoned by the British Foreign Office, insisted that the tanker had sold its cargo at sea to a private company “which sets the destination of the oil.”
“At a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, we stressed that British authorities’ action against the tanker carrying Iranian oil violated international laws,” Mr. Baeidinejad tweeted after speaking to Mr. Raab on September 11. “The E.U. sanctions cannot be extended to third countries. Despite many threats by America, the tanker sold its oil at sea to a private company and has not violated any obligation.”
British Royal Marines detained Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of the E.U. sanctions. The ship was reportedly carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil worth nearly $130 million.
In what many believed to be a retaliatory response, Iran seized a Swedish-owned British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormoz on July 19. British authorities ultimately released Adrian Darya 1 on August 15 despite pressures by the U.S. to keep it impounded at Gibraltar.
Iran said on September 4 that it planned to release seven of the 23 crew members on humanitarian grounds. The tanker is still anchored in the southern port of Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. has been tracking Adrian Darya 1 since the tanker left Gibraltar. The latest satellite photographs have shown the tanker off the Russian navy port of Tartus in Syria, leading many to believe that it must have transferred its crude to the government of Bashar al-Assad.
A few days before his dismissal by the U.S. President Donald Trump, the former National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted: “Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 was not headed to #Syria is in denial. Tehran thinks it is more important to fund the murderous Assad regime than provide for its people. We can talk, but #Iran is not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror! Provide for its people. We can talk, but #Iran is not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!”
During an interview with Commodore Alireza Tangsiri, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (NEDSA) on August 21, the Iranian Labor News Agency report, ILNA said that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had leased Adrian Darya 1.
ILNA, however, issued a correction later the same day which read: “In the interview with the NEDSA commander, the reporter incorrectly said that the IRGC had leased Grace 1. That was, however, not the case. After its release, the tanker changed its name to Adrian Darya 1. Russia owns the South Korean-made ship. An Iranian oil shipping company has leased it from Russia.”
Many political observers believe that the U.S. and the E.U. do not want to confront Moscow for allegedly helping Adrian Darya 1 to transfer its cargo to the Syrian government through Russia’s navy base of Tartus. Others consider the sale of the crude oil a victory for the IRGC.
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]