By Payman Yazdani

Tehran's political, diplomatic move sends clear signal to world: Entessar

May 26, 2020 - 12:0

TEHRAN– Prof. Entessar says that Tehran's political and diplomatic moves sent a clear and unambiguous signal that maritime piracy is not only a challenge to the international legal order but it also threatens Iran's commercial and political rights as a sovereign nation-state.

The first of five Iranian tankers loaded with gasoline has reached Venezuela, expected to ease the South American nation’s fuel crunch while defying Trump administration sanctions targeting the two US foes.

The oil tanker Fortune encountered no signs of US interference as it eased through Caribbean waters toward the Venezuelan coast late on Saturday. Venezuelan officials celebrated the arrival.

“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.”

The Iranian officials had earlier warned of retaliatory measures against the US if Washington causes problems for tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela.

The issue was discussed with Nader Entessar, Professor Emeritus of Political Science from the University of South Alabama.

Here is full text of our interview with him:

US has unilaterally withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran, imposing illegal sanctions against the country, violating the UN Security Council Resolution 2231. It is also threatening other countries not to trade with Iran and hence, forcing others to violate the same UN resolution. Legally speaking, does Washington have any right to ban bilateral trades of Iran with other countries? 

No.  The US is no longer a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  When President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA via executive order, he clearly stated that the United States is withdrawing as a participant in the Iran nuclear deal.  Thereafter, the Trump administration has been forcing other JCPOA signatories to violate the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and under threat of punishment has succeeded to prevent several other countries from conducting normal bilateral trade with Iran.  Of course, every country has the legal right to sanction another country and not to trade with it.  However, threatening other countries with punitive actions if they do not follow the unilateral sanctions of another country is generally an illegal act.   

Iran has recently dispatched five tankers laden with fuel to Venezuela, despite US threats of intercepting the cargo. Can Washington seize the Iranian tankers according to international law?  

No, the United States does not have any legal right to seize Iranian oil tankers that are engaged in bilateral trade with Venezuela.  International law does not prohibit legal bilateral trade between two sovereign nation-states.  On the contrary, seizing commercial ships or legal cargo of one state by another state is tantamount to piracy under international maritime law. 

Iran has warned that any aggression against its tankers will not be left unanswered. What do you think would be the repercussions of any possible US move regarding the tankers?  

At this time, it appears that the United States has not interfered with the movement of the Iranian oil tankers and that the ships have reached their destination in Venezuela.  But if the United States had violated international maritime laws against commercial shipping, Iran could have resorted to a range of options, including taking reciprocal actions against US commercial targets in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere.  

What is the political significance of Iran's move? what will be the message of Iran's actions to other countries under US illegal sanctions?  

Beyond any legal maneuvering and legal ramifications, Tehran's political and diplomatic moves sent a clear and unambiguous signal that maritime piracy is not only a challenge to the international legal order but it also threatens Iran's commercial and political rights as a sovereign nation-state that could redound to the detriment of rights and obligations of other states.  In other words, if the international community tolerates piracy in legal commercial trade, the principles of the Law of the Seas will be rendered meaningless. 

Leave a Comment

3 + 1 =