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Trump sanctions Iranian oil tanker captains for aiding Venezuela

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions Wednesday imposed against five Iranian ship captains for shipping oil to Venezuela. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions Wednesday imposed against five Iranian ship captains for shipping oil to Venezuela. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has sanctioned the captains of five tankers for shipping Iranian gasoline to Venezuela, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, as the United States continues to pressure both adversary nations.

In a statement Wednesday, the United States' top diplomat accused the five Iranian ship captains of delivering some 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline and related components to the South American nation in support of its embattled president, Nicolas Maduro.

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The five men -- Ali Danaei Kenarsari, Mohsen Gohardehi, Alireza Rahnavard, Reza Vaziri and Yahya Zadeh -- have been added to the Treasury's Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List, barring U.S. citizens from doing business with them and freezing all their U.S. assets.

"As a result of today's sanctions, these captains' assets will be blocked. Their careers and prospects will suffer from this designation," Pompeo said. "Mariners who are considering work with Iran and Venezuela should understand that aiding these oppressive regimes is simply not worth the risk."

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The Trump administration has repeatedly imposed sanctions against both countries to force Maduro to step down and to coerce Tehran back to the negotiating table over a new nuclear deal.

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Maduro has been continuously squeezed diplomatically and financially by the United States since his 2018 re-election was deemed illegitimate early last year, but he has managed to cling to power with the support of Russia, Cuba, China and Iran.

Iran, the Treasury said, has plans of shipping more oil to Caracas in the months to come despite its people suffering under fuel supply rationing "due to the Iranian regime's corruption, mismanagement and global malign activities."

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"The rogue regimes in Caracas and Tehran are unified by their penchant for repressing their people, corruption, self-enrichment and gross mismanagement of their peoples' wealth," Pompeo said.

Pompeo accused Maduro of squandering Venezuela's abundant natural resources to the point of needing assistance from Iran while he chastised the Middle Eastern country's support of Caracas as wasting its peoples' resources on "ill-conceived foreign adventurism that prolongs suffering abroad."

The United States leads a coalition of some 60 mostly Western nations backing opposition leader Juan Guaido's self-appointed claim to the interim presidency of Venezuela in the push to oust the socialist regime in favor of a democratic government.

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"We will continue to support the National Assembly, interim president Guaido and the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore democracy," Pompeo told reporters later Wednesday.

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Venezuela has repeatedly threatened to file charges against the United States with the International Criminal Court over its imposing sanctions, calling them illegal and crimes against humanity.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza reiterated such claims on Wednesday, calling the new sanctions "elements" for the ICC.

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"In an outburst of arrogance, [Pompeo] announces sanctions against the Iranian ship captains that delivered gasoline to Venezuela. More evidence of the hatred of Trump's hawks against ALL Venezuelans, regardless of their political positions," Arreaza tweeted.

Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, tweeted that the sanctions signal the "miserable failure" of the Trump administration's so-called maximum pressure campaign it began when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out from a multination nuclear deal in 2018 in hopes of negotiating a new deal aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

"Despite U.S. pressure, Iran & Venezuela remain steadfast in countering unlawful American sanctions," he said.

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