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Op-Ed: Third Iranian tanker arrives in Venezuelan coastal waters

Third of five Iranian tankers have now arrived

With two tankers already docked a third tanker the Petunia has now arrived within Venezuelan coastal zone waters where it will be escorted into port. The Fortune arrived in port on Monday and the Forest has also docked at a state-run port of the PDVSA the national petrol company, Petroleum of Venezuela.

President Maduro talks of new normal gas supply

US sanctions have led many countries to refuse to supply Venezuela with oil, chemicals, or parts to repair their own refineries so that they could manufacture their own gasoline. While the US sanctions do not legally apply to other countries, US global clout in trading and financing is used to force submission. However, some countries including Venezuela and Iran have resisted the sanctions. Given the US sanctions, the drop in oil prices, and reduced demand, Iran is no doubt quite willing to trade gasoline with Venezuela.

Gasoline in Venezuela is highly subsidized and PDVSA loses money on its sale. It remains to be seen if the new supplies will be sold at a rate nearer market prices. To raise the price may be too costly politically for Maduro.

US complains about Iranian shipment

The US complains that the Iranian tanker shipments violate its sanctions. Of course they do but there is nothing illegal about that. What would be illegal would be US actions to turn back the tankers. It has threatened actions but so far has held off actually intercepting any of the tankers. To do so would be akin to piracy and certainly against international law.. It would appear that even the US sees such actions as too provocative and likely to cause outright war with Iran.

Shipments may be paid for in gold

There are reports that Iran is paying for the shipments in gold. This would avoid problems with paying in US or other currencies through international financing systems that are to a considerable degree under the control of the US. The gold is said to be flown back to Iran by Mahan Air. The US has sanctioned a Chinese company that does business with Mahan. So far, the US appears to be looking on in anger but not venturing to rashly exacerbate conflict between itself Iran and Venezuela. The two US rivals appear to have nothing to lose by continuing to trade between themselves.

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