By Amir Taghati
The Iranian regime appears to be shipping crude oil to Syria again in violation of international sanctions, according to data from two tanker-tracking firms, as tensions between the US and Iran rise, increasing the Gulf Country’s international isolation.
TankerTrackers.com and ClipperData report that approximately one million barrels of Iranian crude were delivered into the Syrian port of Baniyas during the first week of May, which would be the first of Iran regime’s oil delivery to Syria since the end of 2018.
This suspected delivery comes one year after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions on Iran, and one week after the US tightened the sanctions in an effort to push Iran’s oil exports to zero.
It also comes at around the same time that the US carrier strike group and bomber task force arrived in the Middle East to counter potential threats from Iran and the US announced that it would be placing sanctions on Iranian metal exports.
Many analysts predicted that the Iranian regime would increase its efforts to smuggle oil into Syria and Iraq following the US push to stop them exporting oil to buyers in Asia and Europe.
The Iranian tanker Masal, previously known as True Ocean, recently caught the attention of both tracking firms after it made a series of unusual moves that were especially notable because the tanker was previously used to move oil to Syria.
The Masal left Iran in March heading towards Turkey’s east coast, something that Samir Madani, founder of Tanker Trackers, found odd because the tankers should head towards western Turkey when the refineries are based.
It anchored in Turkey for three weeks but left with a million barrels of oil still on board. Then, the boat switched off its transponder near the Syrian shoreline to prevent it from being tracked by shipping companies, but the firms were able to track it using satellites.
It came back online on May 7, after unloading its cargo near Syria’s Baniyas port, when the country’s largest refinery is located.
ClipperData says this is the second Iranian oil tanker that has been caught going dark in the Mediterranean since April.
Despite US sanctions, the Iranian regime has still budgeted to export 25% of its oil and that will prove difficult now that Trump has ended the sanctions waivers. Therefore, Iran may need to resort to more back door sales and offer steep discounts.
On Wednesday, Iran regime said that it would stop complying with the nuclear deal.