“Two leaders, two countries, two revolutions whose hearts are together,” Soltani tweeted on Sunday beside a picture of Ayatollah Khamenei and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
“The first Iranian fuel tanker arrived in Venezuela; Venezuelan defense ministry, thank you for escorting the tankers,” he added.
In another tweet, he wrote, “Affection was replied by affection. In 2008 Venezuela, under Commander Chavez transferred gasoline to Iran which was under sanctions; and today, the Iranian people under the leadership of Imam Khamenei have dispatched gasoline-loaded tankers to the land of heroes, Venezuela.”
Earlier on Sunday, the first of five Iranian oil tankers has entered the Venezuelan territorial waters to show Iran’s determination to carry out exports of goods and oil to everywhere in the world regardless of US threats.
According to the online tracking data, the Iranian-flagged tanker, named Fortune, arrived in the Venezuelan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Saturday evening.
Based on media reports, upon entering the Venezuelan waters, the ship was closely followed by a US cargo ship, the Adam Joseph.
Four other tankers – the Clavel, the Forest, the Faxon and the Petunia – follow the Iranian tanker ‘Fortune’ all en route to Venezuela’s shores.
The tankers are carrying a total of 1.53 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela, according to both governments, sources and calculations by TankerTrackers.com.
The hashtag #GraciasIran [Thank you, Iran] has been tweeted to mark the arrival of Iran’s tankers, with netizens hailing the cooperation between Tehran and Caracas in defiance of the US fuss to block the flow of oil from Iran to Venezuela.
Although Venezuela owns the largest proven oil reserves in the world, it has been trying to cover its domestic supply needs, with its energy industry hit by cruel US sanctions.
Earlier on Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country is always entitled to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and warned that if his country’s oil tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world get into trouble by the Americans, Tehran will definitely retaliate.
“Although some of the US measures have created unacceptable conditions in different parts of the world, we will not be the initiator of tension and clash,” Rouhani said in a phone call with the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Referring to the American moves in the Caribbean, he reiterated, “If our oil tankers face problems in the Caribbean Sea or anywhere in the world by the Americans, they will face problems reciprocally.”
We see the conditions today more apt for cooperation, especially given the outbreak of this disease; but the US continues its incorrect decisions and inhumane behaviors, the president noted.
He made it clear, “As before, we stress that the security of our region, particularly the marine security, is maintained by the regional countries and we have always announced that we are ready for cooperation with the neighboring countries.”
The Qatari Emir, for his part, underlined that the regional security should be maintained by the countries in the region and they should cooperate with each other to secure waterways in the region.
Hamad Al Thani also added that his country will try to deescalate tension.
Also, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri on Friday warned Washington of the dire repercussions of any hostile move against Iran’s interests, vowing that Tehran would not hesitate to strike back in case it is targeted by the US.
Bagheri noted Iran’s right to free shipment in the high seas, and stressed that the armed forces are constantly monitoring every small move of the enemies, including the adventurous, terrorist and antihuman American army in the region and faraway lands.
“We stand firm and decided to give the US an appropriate response for any miscalculation against the national interests of Iran,” the top commander stressed, in a stern warning to the US to avoid any hostile move aganst five Iranian tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela.
Venezuela’s defense minister said Wednesday that planes and ships from the nation’s armed forces will escort Iranian tankers arriving with fuel to the gasoline-starved country to prevent any US aggression.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said Venezuela’s navy and air force will welcome the five Iranian tankers, seeing them through the nation’s maritime territory and into port.
He compared the fuel tankers to humanitarian aid that China and Russia have sent to help Venezuela combat the new coronavirus pandemic.
Meantime, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami warned the US against any hostile move or trouble-making for the country’s oil tankers in international waters.
“Troubling the oil tankers is a violation of international laws and security. Both international organizations and countries which are sensitive to the laws and waterways’ security should certainly show reaction to such an act,” General Hatami told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.
He described any possible US trouble-making for the Iranian tankers in the free waters as “piracy”.
“Of course, our policy is fully clear and we have clearly announced that we will not tolerate any disturbance. The Americans and others know that we certainly do not hesitate to react to any such move and if the disturbances increase and continue, they will certainly face a firm response,” General Hatami said.
Reuters had quoted a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration as saying last Thursday that the United States is considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to Venezuela.
“…we’re looking at measures that can be taken,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Informed sources told Nour News website, close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), that the US has sent four of its combat warships along with Boeing P-8 Poseidon fighters to the Caribbean.
In response to the US threats, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to caution over likely US menace against Iranian oil tankers in the Caribbean, stressing that America would be responsible for ensuing consequences.
Zarif described the US’ provocative threats as piracy and a big threat to world peace and security, stressing that the US must stop bullying in the world and respect the rule of the international law, especially freedom of shipping in high seas.
Calling the US government responsible for the repercussions of any illegal move, the top diplomat underlined Iran’s right to take necessary measures to counter these threats.
Furthermore, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi summoned the Swiss ambassador, representing US interests in Tehran, to express the country’s intensive protest at US provocations.
Araqchi called on the Swiss envoy to convey Iran’s serious warning to the US officials against any likely threat posed by the US to Iran’s oil tankers.
He noted that Iran and Venezuela enjoy “completely legitimate and legal commercial ties,” adding that the US resorting to bullying measures will be considered as a menace to “free shipping, international trade and the free flow of energy.”
Such measures, the Iranian diplomat said, are flagrant examples of piracy and explicit violation of international laws and, as such, defy the goals and principles explicated in the UN Charter.
He also warned that any threat against the Iranian ships will ensue Iran’s prompt and categorical reaction, and the US administration will be responsible for their consequences.
The Swiss envoy, for his part, said he will instantly convey Iran’s message to the US administration and inform the Iranian government of the results as soon as possible.
Also, the Iranian foreign ministry warned on Monday that any hostile act by Washington against the country’s oil tankers in the international waters will face a crushing response.
“What the Americans have said about our oil tankers is illegal and if they make a move, they will face Iran’s reaction,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi told reporters via a video conference.
He noted that Iran has given the necessary advice to the Americans via the Swiss embassy, which represents the US interests in Tehran, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also written a letter to the UN chief in this regard, expressing the hope that Washington does not make any “stupid” move.
“Free trade among independent states is a legitimate issue. The US in Trump era is disturbing the global order and is after global anarchism,” Mousavi said.
Also on Monday, Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee confirmed his country’s exports of gasoline to Venezuela, warning against any US hostile act against Iran’s tankers in the international waters.
“Iran has sent the gasoline tankers at the demand of Venezuelan government. No state is duty-bound to implement the US-desired sanctions,” Rabiyee told reporters in Tehran.
He called on the international society to show reaction to the US illegal warnings about its imminent action against the Iranian oil tankers in the international waters, and said, “The US has a record of piracy.”
“It is still soon to speak about the reactions, but we consider all options and hope that the Americans will not make any mistake,” Rabiyee said.