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Iran can retaliate against US theft of its oil on ‘larger scale’: Defense minister

This file photo shows Suez Rajan, the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker carrying Iranian oil.

Iran’s defense minister has rebuked the US government’s seizure of one million barrels of Iranian crude, warning that the Islamic Republic is fully capable of retaliating “on a larger scale” in due time.

The US Department of Justice confirmed on September 8 that it had seized the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker carrying Iranian oil, named Suez Rajan, and its cargo of 980,000 barrels of crude oil off the coast of Texas.

The department claimed that Suez Rajan was in April transporting Iranian oil to China in violation of Washington’s sanctions against Tehran. It also said the US government had obtained a warrant earlier this year for its seizure.

“This is an act of theft by the United States, which is not acceptable across the world whatsoever,” Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani stated.

Speaking with ISNA, Ashtiani warned that if Washington goes ahead with stealing the Iranian oil cargo, “we will definitely retaliate, and we can react on a larger scale.”

“But for now, we have limited our action to the discussions we are engaged in,” he said, stressing that Iran expects the Americans to stop such actions.

“We are located in a strategic and very important region. The energy transmission lines pass through this region, and we have control over these lines. Therefore, it is possible for us to take countermeasures against the US on a larger scale.”

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. Still, the US Navy later unloaded the tanker of stolen Iranian oil worth around $56 million off the Texas port, brushing off warnings from the Islamic Republic. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani described the US move at the time as contradictory and said Tehran had summoned the Swiss ambassador to the ministry in this regard.

Under the guise of “sanctions-enforcement operations,” the United States has in recent years seized foreign vessels carrying Iranian oil across the world.

Back in February 2021, the 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.

Also, in May last year, Greek authorities confiscated a Russia-operated ship, the Pegas, carrying Iranian oil off the shore of Karystos near Greece. Despite US pressures on Greece to dispatch the oil cargo to the US, a Greek court ruled against the move, and as a result, the seizure was lifted and the ship was allowed to resume its voyage in August.

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