After Greek Seizure of Iranian Tanker, Iran Escalates

Iran detained two Greek-flagged tankers on May 27 in response to Greece’s seizure, announced a day earlier and carried out at the behest of the United States, of an Iranian-flagged vessel carrying Iranian oil to Turkey. The almost routine Iranian escalation comes straight from its counter-pressure playbook designed to deter both U.S. pressure and sanctions enforcement in a bid to continue reaping the benefits of the current open-ended but dead-end nuclear negotiations.

More curious is the case of the Iranian oil-laden tanker seized by Greece. Strangely, it remains uncertain if it was detained due to its attempts to circumvent sanctions on Iranian oil exports or because of the ships seeming ties to sanctioned Russian entities. Yet, the ship had reportedly been in the Mediterranean, trying to sell its illicit cargo, for at least eight months, indicating that although European buyers abide by American sanctions, U.S. officials have been lax in stopping Iranian attempts to circumvent them. And the combination of Iranian oil on a Kremlin connected tanker headed to a Turkish port demonstrates how U.S. adversaries and frenemies are increasingly interconnected, requiring a more concerted U.S. response.

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JINSA Staff Contributors

Andrew Ghalili – Senior Policy Analyst
Ari Cicurel – Senior Policy Analyst

This report was made possible by the support of the Gettler Family Foundation and a portion of the research was conducted on the Benjamin Gettler International Policy Trip.