The Iranian tanker and the route to Kalamata – Sept. 10, 2019

The Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 – formerly Grace 1 – which so shook the Greek government, is approaching the Syrian coast these days. I recall that on June 4 the Gibraltar authorities held the Iranian tanker for about 45 days, when it was allowed to leave on August 15. The move came after Gibraltar rejected the US request to seize it. This denial has forced the US Treasury to put the tanker on the US embargo list as a tool to support terrorism, as Iranian oil revenues support the militia of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who are affiliated with the American terrorist. With the release of the tanker everyone thought it would be heading to the Syrian port of Banyas. Quaintly,

During the four days following the release of the tanker, many questions arose that need to be addressed regarding the choice of the Greek port by Tehran and the delay of the Greek government in announcing details of what is happening.

First, it should be noted that on May 7, Washington banned Greece and seven other countries from importing Iranian oil as part of a package of economic sanctions it imposed following the cancellation of the nuclear deal with Tehran. The Syrian government then, a week before this announcement, stopped buying oil from Iran. Under the US sanctions, all countries benefiting from Iranian oil will also face harsh US economic sanctions. This includes providing assistance to Iranian oil tankers except in cases of serious emergencies. In the case of Grace 1, moving to Greece was not an urgent need. Therefore, the reason for the move to the Greek coast could be either to land the estimated 2 million barrels of oil, or wait a few days and then continue on the coast to Syria to support dictator Assad’s regime. In both cases, the Greek government would face harsh US sanctions that would weaken any hope of recovering financially.

The sequence of events raises some questions about what happened from the beginning. The communication of the oil tanker is made after a timely communication with the port of destination. So the announcement of the 17 thIn August, two days after his release from Gibraltar, heading for Kalamata means the Greek government already knew it. But it took her 48 hours to declare that the tanker had not been requested to sail to Greece. The announcement came hours after the US State Department threatened a formal statement that Greece should prevent the tanker from approaching the Greek coast. On August 20, the Greek government announced that it would not accept the Iranian tanker. And this announcement also came just hours after the tanker announced that it would not be heading to Kalamata but directly to the port of Bania in Syria, indicating that the tanker initially received the green light from the Greek government, but American pressure forced her to change her attitude, pushing her to change course. It should be made clear that the threatening US response would not have existed if the Iranian tanker had not been accepted by the Greek government.

One of the crucial questions is why Tehran chose the coast of a NATO member and a close ally of Washington and not Turkey with which it has a strong friendship lately. And why didn’t the tanker go straight to the Syrian coast right from the start? Why did Gibraltar release the tanker despite the US request to continue its detention?

The recent events of piracy of the Iranian Navy on many vessels belonging to Great Britain in the Strait of Ormuz did not leave any room for pressure in Tehran. A significant portion of British gas and oil imports come from Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq, so the Strait of Ormuz is very important to British national security. The lack of a serious move by Washington to support London prompted the British government to take a unilateral decision and release the Iranian tanker to curb tension in Ormuz. However, for the reason Greece was chosen, it is clear that Ankara did not give the green light for the tanker to cross. The shores across Turkey and Syria are controlled by the US Navy, which can seize the tanker at any time before arriving on the Syrian coast. In this context, was it possible that the Greek government was ready to buy the oil carried by the Iranian tanker?

The time since taking office of the new government and Kyriakos Mitsotakis was full of internal, regional and international challenges. The gas crisis in the southeastern Mediterranean with Turkey remaining stagnant and unchanged and in the light of this government’s need to work with all its strong allies in support of Ankara, all external steps must be carefully considered. it could have a great cost to the Greek people. Athens today desperately needs close relations with Washington and Europe secondarily. The policy of the new government should be based on this axis to resolve any issue that has arisen or will arise in the future.