Iran and Venezuela attempted to outmaneuver American sanctions by establishing a new oil partnership.
Two Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned ships that "were en route to Venezuela carrying Iranian fuel, scrapped their deliveries after the U.S. threatened sanctions," a senior U.S. official told Fox News.
First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the ships were expected to arrive in Venezuela as the final delivery in a previously planned five-oil-tanker shipment, an effort that the Venezuelan regime has said is a partnership to thwart the American sanctions.
"The Iranian oil tankers arriving in Venezuela are nothing but a distraction from the real problems facing Maduro," a spokesperson from the State Department told Fox News. "These shipments will do nothing to help Venezuelans, they will only help prop up the former Maduro regime for a little while longer."
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised address: "We are two rebel revolutionary peoples that are never going to kneel before North American imperialism.”
But the Greek-owned ships would have been unable to access international banking and maritime insurance had they carried out the shipment.
U.S. officials have been in direct communication with the ships, which are no longer heading to Venezuala but heading south off the coast of Senegal near Liberia, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The State Department's Iran Action Group reportedly contacted the Liberian government, to which the two ships are registered, to warn them against sanctions. The Liberian government immediately revoked the ships' accreditation.
The two Greek firms that own the ships were also threatened with U.S. sanctions and legal action, at which point the two ships abandoned the course, according to The Journal.
The U.S. has been increasing its efforts in pressuring both nations with sanctions.
"We will continue to use the full weight of United States' economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy," the State Department spokesperson told Fox News.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that the U.S. will be removing all sanction waivers that allowed Chinese, European and Russian companies to work with Iranian nuclear sites without falling target to existing U.S. sanctions on Iran.
President Trump has also increased sanctions on Venezuela, drastically affecting its oil production.
According to experts, the oil shipments were only expected to satisfy Venezuelan demand for a couple of weeks.
"Iranian gas cannot prevent the inevitable: a democratic transition that restores prosperity to Venezuela," the State Department spokesperson said.