US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday announced sanctions on five Iranian ship captains who delivered oil to the fuel-starving Venezuela.
On early Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the fresh bans as another “desperate” move by the US against Iranian individuals, and a sign of the miserable failure of the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure”.
“Despite US pressure, Iran and Venezuela remain steadfast in countering unlawful American sanctions,” Mousavi added.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has also described the new sanctions as “an outburst of arrogance” and “more evidence of the Trump hawks’ hatred of all Venezuelans.”
Speaking at a news conference, Pompeo announced the sanctions and warned mariners against doing business with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“As a result of today’s sanctions, these captains’ assets will be blocked. Their careers and prospects will suffer from this designation,” Pompeo said in a statement later.
Last month, five Iranian oil tankers set off for the Caribbean and delivered about 1.5 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela which is under a virtual American economic siege.
Iran now plans to follow its trailblazing shipment of fuel to Venezuela with regular gasoline sales despite US threats to punish any facilitation of the cargoes.
Bloomberg said this month the US government has decided to avoid a military confrontation and instead prepared sanctions on as many as 50 oil and fuel tankers as part of an effort to cut off trade between Iran and Venezuela.
“The sanctions would be imposed through the Treasury Department and are intended to avoid a US military confrontation with the countries,” the leading financial news provider said, citing a person familiar with the matter.
However, both Venezuela and Iran are more than willing to cooperate in defiance of the US threats. According to the Washington Post, Venezuela and Iran have “just proved” that the Trump administration’s sanctions are failing.
“By showing that they were able to trade to mutual benefit”, Iran and Venezuela “not only successfully circumvented US sanctions; they also scored public relations points in the process,” the paper wrote last month.