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Iranian Tanker Seen Near Syria ‘Unloaded Its Cargo,’ Tehran Says


BEIRUT, Lebanon — An Iranian tanker that Western nations sought to bar from delivering its oil has unloaded its cargo after docking on the Mediterranean coast, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

Recent satellite images showed the tanker, the Adrian Darya 1, near the Syrian port of Tartus, suggesting that Iran had delivered the oil to the government of President Bashar al-Assad in defiance of European sanctions.

The delivery comes as Western nations have imposed sanctions to punish Mr. al-Assad, an Iranian ally, for alleged war crimes during his country’s civil war. The Trump administration is also pursuing a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran aimed at squeezing what it considers Tehran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East.

Those struggles have played out in recent months on the high seas, with a string of episodes in which Iran and Western nations have seized each other’s tankers, raising tensions all around.

The Adrian Darya 1, formally known as Grace 1, was carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil when British commandos stopped it near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicions that it planned to flout sanctions by delivering the cargo to Syria.

Iran gave written promises that the tanker’s oil would not go to Syria, and the ship left Gibraltar on Aug. 15.

The United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the tanker and its captain, accusing Iran of using such vessels to support “malign activities and propagate terrorism.”

The tanker reported its location last week in the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus and Syria, but then went dark, apparently because its crew had turned off its transponder.

On Friday, John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, posted a satellite image on Twitter of the tanker about two nautical miles from Tartus. He accused Iran of delivering the oil to Syria to help Mr. al-Assad.

Over the weekend, Maxar Technologies, a space technology company, released similar satellite images of the tanker near Tartus.

On Sunday, Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency that the tanker had “finally docked on the Mediterranean coast” and “unloaded its cargo.”

Mr. Mousavi did not specify where the tanker had delivered its cargo to or whether the oil had been paid for.

Iran is one of Mr. al-Assad’s staunchest foreign backers and has given him military and financial help during Syria’s eight-year civil war. While Mr. al-Assad’s forces now control most of Syria, the country’s economy is in shambles and fuel shortages are common.


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