Contributed by Joe Montero
The third Iranian tanker (Petunia) of a of a petrol carrying five ship flotilla has arrived at El Palito port. It follows Forest and Fortune. Two more are on the way, carrying petrol to relieve the serious shortage faced by Venezuela.
Fortune arrives in Venezuela
US President Donald Trump warned that the shipment should not go ahead and promised retaliation is it did. Iran did not flinch. The tankers begun their journey.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Saturday that the United States should not interfere with the shipment.
In a statement, he said that the U.S. had created “unacceptable conditions” in different parts of the world, but that Iran would “by no means” be the one to initiate conflict.
A defiant Maduro appeared on TV days ahead of the ships’ arrivals, vowing a tough response to any U.S. aggression against the Iranian tankers.
“They want to enslave us,” Maduro said Thursday. “If you want peace, you must be prepared to defend it.”
He went on TV again on 27 May, talked about the will of Venezuela to resist, the right of Venezuelans to stand up to crimes against humanity committed against Venezuelans, and the intention to take the sanctions to the International Court of Justice.
President Maduro thanks Iran for sending oil tankers to Venezuela
Video from Ruptly
Although Venezuela has the largest supply of oil in the world, the capability to process it has been compromised. mainly because is the blockade of spare parts to fix breakdowns in aging refineries.
Petrol is free in Venezuela. You can fill up by going to a petrol station and scanning an ID number. This has been a boon for people in a difficult economic situation. It also creates a profitable opportunity for smugglers to divert supplies across the border, and this contributes to the shortage of supply.
A final factor is the degree of built in inefficiency and dependence on imports inherited from history and not yet overcome.
The consequence is that supply is rationed and long lines of motorists waiting for petrol, can often be seen outside petrol stations,.
Venezuela’s government has sought relief through exchanging gold for supplies from Iran.
The Iranian tankers are also more than about petrol. Both nations are facing crippling sanctions, and for them, this is a joint act of defiance against what they regard as a bullying super power.
Washington had warned that there would be consequences if the shipment went ahead. Iran ignored the threat and continued.
Washington’s failure to respond as promised can only be interpreted as a diplomatic failure, which has been blindingly obvious, as the ships arrive in Venezuela. Three of them have arrived safely, and the other two are on their way.
A diplomatic failure for the United States has meant a diplomatic gain for Iran and Venezuela.
Interception would have would be an act of piracy, transparent and indefensible under international and maritime law. Shooting would have been an act of war. The United States would have found itself thoroughly isolated, and it could cause irreparable damage to its chosen weapon of imposing sanctions. On one form or another, the United States has imposed them on almost 40 countries.
Washington has come out of this looking less formidable than before.
This does not mean that there will not be some form of retaliatory action later. It is highly likely that there will be, although this might be on a weaker foundation, after a series of failures.
When Fortune approached Venezuela through the Caribbean, it sailed towards port under the protection of the Venezuelan military, and to a warm reception.
“Iran and Venezuela have always supported each other in times of difficulty,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted. “Today, the first ship with gasoline arrives for our people.”
A few tankers will not solve Venezuela’s oil problems. This is not the main point. This is that the two countries are developing a comprehensive trading partnership that may be a pivot towards breaking the blockade imposed on them. Add this to the growing trade with Russia, China, Cuba, India, South Africa, and other countries, and the foundations for a new trading block are starting to emerge.
Along with the relief of pressure from the sanctions, this would deprive the United sates of major markets, and this is not taken lightly. Overstepping the mark, could force this block to emerge more quickly and send an economic tsunami that would impact on the American economy.
The United States is also vulnerable to oil supplies form the Persian gulf.
Military action could also drag in Russia and China, who have vowed to protect Venezuela id attacked. both are formidable powers.
The stakes are high, and the tension remains.