Washington: The US is gravely disappointed with the UK after a Gibraltar court allowed the release of an Iranian tanker suspected of hauling oil to Syria, and threatened sanctions against ports, banks and anyone else who does business with the ship or its crew. US officials said the court order rewards Iranian terrorism and Tehran will interpret the action as appeasement.
The court’s decision Thursday to release the Grace 1 was a missed opportunity and the Trump administration hopes that the UK government and authorities in Gibraltar will reconsider. The Grace 1 had been held in Gibraltar after British forces seized it last month on suspicion that it was hauling Iranian crude oil to Syria. The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to block the vessel’s release, but the Gibraltar Supreme Court on Thursday said American authorities hadn’t filed the appropriate legal application.
The two administration officials said the Grace 1 should now be considered a pariah. Anyone that does business with the ship, its crew or its owners, or provides financial transactions or port services to the vessel could be liable for evading U.S. sanctions, the officials said. Iran said the ship wouldn’t sail to a sanctioned destination and is now rushing to return it to international waters before the U.S. finds a way to prolong its six-week detention.
That warning seemed to be part of an American effort to persuade the Grace I’s crew, most of who are from India, not to return to the ship. “The maritime community should be aware that the U.S. government intends to revoke visas held by members of such crews,” Ortagus’s statement added.