In 2020 the US government seized seizing 1.6 million barrels’ worth of gasoline from Iran in a similar fashion and sold it at auction, bringing Washington $40 million of profit.
Iran has called a move by the US government to seize approximately two million barrels of oil onboard a tanker an “act of piracy.”
A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said on Monday that the shipment “belongs to the private sector.”
At the beginning of the month, the Department of Justice filed a complaint in a US district court demanding the forfeiture of some two million barrels of oil aboard a Greek-operated, Liberian-flagged tanker – The Achilleas – based on allegations that the vessel is involved in covert shipping of Iranian oil abroad, in violation of US sanctions and anti-terror legislation.
The Achilleas is now reported to be close to the Texan coast, as the Justice Department ordered the ship to sail to the US before Biden succeeded Donald Trump on 20 January.
Under the Donald Trump administration, Iran’s oil industry was targeted as part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy, threatening countries purchasing Iranian-sourced oil with sanctions.
Hopes for a thaw in relations between the two nations after US President Biden entered the White House have been put on ice, as the new US administration has indicated that it expects Iran to return to compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – abandoned by the US under Trump in 2018 – regarding uranium enrichment and stockpiling before it would ease any sanctions.