Iranian-flagged oil tanker sought by US sets new destination
The saga of the Iranian-flagged oil tanker briefly detained in Gibraltar and sought by the United States amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington took a different turn Saturday.
The crew of the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, updated its listed destination on its Automatic Identification System to Mersin, Turkey, a port city in the country’s south and home to an oil terminal.
The move comes just days after its other intended destination – Kalamata, Greece – said it wouldn’t risk its relations with the United States by aiding it.
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Mersin is about 125 miles northwest of a refinery in Baniyas, Syria, where authorities alleged the Adrian Darya – carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil worth some $130 million – had been heading before seized off Gibraltar in early July. However, the Turkish port city might not be its true destination as mariners can input any destination into the identification system.
The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Adrian Darya's position as just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. At current speeds, it estimated the Adrian Darya would reach Mersin in about a week.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the AP reported.
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The Adrian Darya's detention and later release by Gibraltar has added fuel to the growing tensions between Washington and Tehran, after Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago over concerns about Iran's ballistic missile program and regional influence.
In the time since, Iran lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the deal, as the U.S. re-imposed and created sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude oil aboard, a crucial source of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.
In U.S. federal court documents, authorities allege the oil tanker’s true owner is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The U.S. declared the Guard a foreign terror organization in April, the first time America named a military force of a nation as such, giving it the legal power to issue a warrant for the vessel's seizure. However, that would require another nation to acknowledge the writ.
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Meanwhile, Iran continues to hold the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which it seized in a commando-style raid July 19 after the taking of the Adrian Darya. Analysts suggested the release of the Adrian Darya would see the Stena Impero let go, but that has yet to happen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.