US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he suspects an Iranian tanker of transporting oil to Syria, however there appears to be no clear evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Iran.
“Despite [Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad] Zarif’s promise to the UK that the #AdrianDarya1 would not deliver oil to Syria, it is now transferring oil off the Syrian coast,” Pompeo tweeted. “Will the world hold Iran accountable if this oil is delivered to Syria?”
Despite Iran FM Zarif’s promise to the UK that the #AdrianDarya1 would not deliver oil to Syria, it is now transferring oil off the Syrian coast. Will the world hold Iran accountable if this oil is delivered to Syria? pic.twitter.com/z5Ra41n43u— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 2, 2019
Pompeo also shared a satellite image purportedly produced by the San-Francisco based private Earth imaging company, Planet Labs, which appears to show the vessel, Adrian Darya-1, positioned alongside a smaller Syrian tanker, Jasmine, off the coast of Syria.
The picture shared by Pompeo was taken from an earlier post by the tracking service Tanker Trackers. In it, the bloggers refrained from jumping to conclusions, unlike Pompeo: “This is not a confirmation of any oil transfer just yet. We'll compare imagery later,” said Tanker Trackers.
**BREAKING NEWS** (2019-10-01)— TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️🛢 (@TankerTrackers) October 1, 2019
The #AdrianDarya1 is now postured in an STS (Ship-to-Ship) formation with a smaller Iranian-flagged Handymax (350K barrel capacity) tanker called JASMINE. This is not a confirmation of any oil transfer just yet. We'll compare imagery later. #OOTT pic.twitter.com/NbQ590zxSK
According to Tanker Trackers, satellite data in late September showed that the Adrian Darya was still fully laden, despite Iran’s earlier comments that it had cleared its cargo. The Iranian supertanker is understood to be unable to unload its cargo – over two million barrels of crude oil – in nearby Syrian ports, so it would instead have to pump the oil into smaller vessels first.
Tanker Trackers have put into question Pompeo’s claims that the Adrian Darya is carrying out ship-to-ship oil transfer: “That is NOT what we said. We said the oil transfer is still unconfirmed. For all we know, the two crews could be enjoying coffee and playing cards together. One requires two dots in order to draw a line. We have to confirm the oil transfer.”
The service then accused Pompeo of “misrepresenting” and “misusing” its brand, as well as damaging its reputation.
Adrian Darya, previously known as Grace 1, was detained off Gibraltar by British Royal Marine commandos on 4 July on suspicion of being en route to Syria to sell oil there in breach of US and EU sanctions. The seizure further strained already-tense relations between the UK and Iran, which fiercely opposed the move and soon impounded a British-flagged tanker (insisting, however, that it was not in retaliation).
Adrian Darya was released on 15 August, after Iran gave assurances that it would not transport oil to Syria. In early September, the vessel was reportedly spotted within several nautical miles of Syria’s coast; Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it had docked at an undisclosed location somewhere “on the Mediterranean coast” and unloaded its cargo, prompting accusations from the US and the UK of breaking its promises.