By Payman Yazdani

Tehran signals its oil trade 'legitimate': Japanese expert

May 29, 2020 - 12:41

TEHRAN– Sachi Sakanashi believes that message of Iran's move to send oil tankers to Venezuela is that Tehran's oil trade is legitimate and the country is ready to send its oil even across the Atlantic Ocean when there is a customer.

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.

To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Sachi Sakanashi, Assistant Director of JIME Center, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan.

Here is the full text of our interview with her:

What is the political significance of Iran's move? What is its message to the other countries that are under heavy US unilateral sanctions?

I think Iran's message is that Iran's oil trade is legitimate and when there is a country that wants to buy Iranian oil, Iran will send it even across the Atlantic Ocean.

Is it compliance to international norms to interrupt countries' legal trade unilaterally?

The problem is that the US has the power to impose its unilateral sanctions on other countries regardless of its unilaterality. But in this case, I don't believe US has decided to take any immediate action to obstruct Iran's oil export to Venezuela, partly due to the fact that the US is aware that such a move would not be able to gather enough support from the international community.

Iran has threatened that any US possible action against Iranian oil tankers will not be left unanswered. What can be consequences of any US mistake for world energy market?

US has not declared that it will physically disturb Iran's oil export to other countries. They usually designate organizations or individuals to block their property in the United States. It is possible that the US Treasury will take action, which might not have any immediate impact on the world energy market.

Sachi Sakanashi has worked for two years from 2000 to 2002 as a Cultural Attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Tehran.

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