By Syed Zafar Mehdi
In a classic example of broad daylight banditry, the US Navy this week unloaded a tanker of stolen Iranian oil worth around $56 million off the Texas port, brushing off warnings from Iran.
For months, American oil firms had resisted the temptation of touching the 800,000-barrel tanker for fear of Iranian retaliation in the Persian Gulf waters.
But on Saturday, as Iran was marking the 70th anniversary of the CIA-engineered military coup against Iran's then-PM Mohammad Mosaddeq, the US Navy briskly transferred the oil to another tanker.
It was yet another brazen demonstration of how US-defined "rules-based order" works - through banditry, thuggery and flagrant violation of international maritime laws.
The Marshall Islands-flagged Suez Rajan tanker carrying Iranian oil was illegally seized by Washington in April under the guise of “a sanctions-enforcement operation" and guided toward the Texas port.
According to AP news agency, ship tracking data on Saturday showed the transfer of cargo to another tanker named MR Euphrates after a four-month dilly-dallying.
Interestingly, it came days after a group of US senators and House representatives, at the behest of the Israeli lobby in Washington, began mounting pressure on the Joe Biden administration to unload the tanker, without considering its possible repercussions.
Senators Joni Ernst, Richard Blumenthal and some other far-right members of the US Senate and House in a letter told Biden that sanctions would be rendered ineffective if US firms continue to fret about Iranian retaliation in the Persian Gulf.
“It is imperative that the Administration make clear that Iran and designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations cannot prevent our government from carrying out legitimate law enforcement operations,” read the letter.
It's not the first time though that Americans have resorted to such foolhardy adventurism, stealing oil and blatantly bragging about it. The quintessential US banditry and thuggery have been on display on many occasions in recent years.
In May last year, Americans seized a Russia-operated ship, the Pegas, carrying Iranian oil off the shore of Karystos near Greece to dispatch the oil cargo to the US but the Greek court ruled against the move, refusing to bow down to the hegemon's pressure.
In February 2021, Americans seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil off the coast of the Emirati city of Fujairah and sold more than a million barrels of oil confiscated from it for $110 million, or $55 a barrel.
The attempts of oil piracy in the Persian Gulf by the US and its allies have also assumed a dizzying pace in recent years, but the vigilance of Iranian naval forces has thwarted the attempts to steal.
Americans have also regularly stolen Syrian oil in recent years under the guise of anti-terror operations in the Arab country. In August 2022, the Syrian oil ministry accused the US and its mercenaries of stealing 66,000 barrels of oil per day, accounting for almost 80 percent of the country's oil production.
In March 2023, Syria's state-run news agency SANA reported that US forces continue to steal Syrian oil from al-Jazeera oil fields in northeastern Syria, referring to a convoy of 148 vehicles, including 80 tankers, stealing crude oil and shipping it to US bases in northern Iraq.
Prior to the offloading of Iranian oil in Texas on Saturday, Iranian military officials had warned of severe consequences, which dissuaded American firms from going ahead for four months.
In a report last month, Wall Street Journal said US oil firms were “reluctant” to offload the cargo of stolen Iranian oil as they were “too worried about Iranian reprisal."
“Companies with any exposure whatsoever in the Persian Gulf are literally afraid to do it,” the report cited a Houston-based energy firm executive saying at the time, adding that they feared “the Iranians would take retribution against them.”
It was followed by a stern warning from IRGC Navy commander Alireza Tangsiri, who asserted that the era of "hit and run" was over and now Iranians can strike back.
"We hereby declare that we hold any oil company that seeks to unload our crude from the vessel responsible, and we also hold America responsible," he said.
"The era of hit and run is over, and if they hit, they should expect to be struck back.”
It remains to be seen how Iran will respond to the latest incident of US thuggery, but one thing is clear - it will be a typical Iranian response, unexpected, unannounced and firm.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.